Liquor retailers rip B.C. union’s “Shop Public” ads

A new campaign by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union to boost sales at provincially-owned liquor stores is drawing fire from independent liquor retailers as a “desperate attempt to shore up falling sales.”

The BCGEU last Thursday announced it would sponsor a “Shop Public” radio ad campaign, scheduled to run from July 28 to Aug. 1 on behalf of its members working at over 200 public liquor stores and the province’s liquor warehousing facilities.

The campaign, starting just ahead of the August long weekend, urges B.C. residents to “buy at public liquor stores for better selection and lower prices — as much as 35 per cent less than private stores.”

As well, the union said, “profits from public stores are returned to your community to build schools and hospitals.”

“Contrary to the BCGEU ads, the B.C. government receives more revenues when it wholesales product to independent liquor stores than when it sells in its own stores,” said Kim Haakstad, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE-BC). “That means more money for health care and education.”

ABLE-BC represents over 650 non-Crown liquor retailers as well as pubs and bars in the province.

“Many stores are small family-owned businesses that sponsor local sports teams, charities and events,” ABLE-BC president and retailer Al Arbuthnot said in the same release. “Community support and exceptional service has led to an uptick in our industry’s overall market share.”

ABLE-BC said total liquor sales at government stores have fallen 28 per cent from 2002-03 to 2008-09, while sales at independent stores grew by 45 per cent over the same period.

Neighbourhood stores have more convenient hours for consumers and offer chilled products, Haakstad said.

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