TORONTO, ON – The continuing public relations battle between The Beer Store – the Ontario chain co-owned by Labatt Breweries, Molson Coors Canada, and Sleeman Breweries – and the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) – an association of more than 7,500 chain and independent convenience stores – kicked into high gear yesterday following the release of a report that claims beer prices in Ontario would rise if alcohol sales were deregulated.
Released through the newly launched Ontario Beer Facts website, the report commissioned by The Beer Store indicates that Ontario currently has some of the lowest beer prices in Canada when taxes are removed from the comparison, and claims that based on trends in provinces that allow alcohol sales in corner stores, prices for mainstream beer brands could be expected to increase by as much as $10 per case of 24.
The report also claims that the dismantling of the Beer Store in favour of convenience store beer sales would lead to poorer brand selection at most retail locations, lower tax revenues for the province, and increased sales of alcohol to minors.
Following the initial press release from the Beer Store announcing the report, the OCSA released a statement of its own refuting the claim regarding sales to minors, and emphasized the fact that the Beer Store has “foreign owners” (the parent companies of Labatt, Molson Coors and Sleeman) and is a “privately-owned monopoly,” two common talking points for the group.
The Beer Store followed up later in the day with a second press release claiming that a quote in the Toronto Sun from OCSA President Dave Bryans stating that the organization “has never advocated that we were going to offer cheap beer to anybody” is a “flip-flop” from a previous OCSA promise that prices would fall, although evidence of that earlier promise was not offered in the release. A third statement followed announcing the official launch of OntarioBeerFacts.ca.
Aside from the competing press releases, the battle also spilled over to social media, where PR pushes and jabs took place throughout the day and into the evening from Twitter accounts affiliated with the Beer Store (@mybeerstore and @ONBeerFacts) and the OCSA (@OntarioCStores and @MacsAgencyStore).
Given the opinion of the current Ontario Government that no major changes are needed to the beer retailing model in the province, it’s unlikely that this fight will be ending any time soon.