Liquor Boards in Canada


Summary

The Canadian Liquor Boards are independent monopolies, controlled by their provincial governments and operate either as full monopoly or monopoly/private systems.

General Policies and Practices

Pricing

Each Liquor Board has reference or floor pricing standards, which set the minimum retail price points for each product category. All boards encourage premium pricing to enhance profit.

Taxation

All products are subject to excise tax, environmental taxes or levies, plus federal and provincial taxes.

Logistics

For Eastern Canada, in most cases Liquor Boards work with international freight forwarders and arrange delivery from point of production or nearest port. In Western Canada, agents have the option of purchasing the alcohol in bond, and then sell to their respective Liquor Boards.

Mark-ups

FOB or ex-cellar prices are subject to Liquor Boards markups that are added on top of freight and other costs. These markups, depending on the market and origin of the product, can well exceed 100% of product and freight cost.

Payment

A range of payment options exist depending on the Liquor Board. Monopolies in the East hold the receivable and are the importer of record. Aggressive terms are strongly encouraged and range from a minimum of 30 days to 150 days depending on the type of product and quantity purchased. In Western Canada, the agents negotiate and have the option of purchasing alcohol directly from suppliers. Payment terms are typically 90 days to 120 days. Terms can vary from “Bill of Lading” to “Receipt of Goods” depending on the market. In some jurisdictions it is possible to supply product on a consignment basis, this is however voluntary and should only be used if significant gains can be secured. Receivables held by a provincial monopoly do not need to be insured.

Packaging Standards

All Markets adhere to federal packaging standards that cover both label and carton specifications. Included are mandatory EAN/UPC and SCC codes.

Distribution Systems

Each jurisdiction is controlled to some degree by a Liquor Board. It ranges from the most liberal, Alberta, which controls only warehousing and local transport to a range of provinces in which the entire distribution channel, including retail and on-trade supply is handled by the monopoly.

Listing Types

Largely, listings are divided into two areas: The first is the higher volume/lower price "General Category" which requires strategic price pointing, precise quotes and significant marketing expenditures. The second is the premium focused "Specialty Category" which offers opportunities for more interesting, select products and rare wines and spirits. Though these purchases are generally more limited, they can often reach a supplier's maximum market allocation.

Product Selection

With the exception of Alberta, all products must be reviewed and accepted by the Liquor Board prior to being ordered. The competition for “Listings” or “Slots” is very high and it is essential to offer not only high quality/value product and interesting packaging but have strong local representation as well.

Compliance

As with all large clients, it is important to strictly adhere to their policies and terms. Failure to do so can result in significant costs being billed back to the supplier or even return of goods.

Opportunities

In today’s competitive environment monopolies can be an interesting, loyal and rewarding client if the supplier and its local representative offer the highest level of product and service.