MLA John Yap
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Attorney General and Minister of Justice
Dear Mr. Yap,
Thank you for your most recent letter outlining your review of B.C.’s liquor laws and your terms of reference. This comprehensive review is long overdue and we appreciate being part of this process. All Rural Agency Stores play an integral role in the distribution of liquor in British Columbia and because of that, we take this review seriously. After much discussion with our board of directors, and in considering the input we have received from our membership, there are 3 key points which we consider to be of paramount importance.
- An increase in the factor to be more profitable
An increase in the factor would allow RAS’s to be more competitive, thus generating more business for the RAS and for the government. Also, not all RAS’s can utilize flex pricing.
- Modernization of the RAS program to compete with large businesses that will dominate urban locations
Participation in supplier promotions, free gifts, products or money for promotional or volume purchases.
- To protect the RAS small businesses and the rural customer. A strong Rural Agency program will benefit rural British Columbians and maximize the strong tourist trade that rural BC attracts.
Clear definition of the RAS role and position within the distribution chain
We look forward to meeting with you in September and going through, in detail, these points and how they affect the Rural Agency Store Program, the rural residents and the ever growing tourist trade.
Thank you for your time in considering this submission and we are proud to be part of an always growing and changing British Columbia.
Rural Agency Store Advisory Society
37530 Eakin Settlement Rd., Burns Lake, BC V0J 1E4 250-694-3403
The Voice of Responsible and Sustainable Rural Liquor Stores
September 27th, 2013
Honourable Minister of Justice for Liquor Policy Reform
The Rural Agency Store Advisory Society represents the 220+ Rural Agency Stores (RAS) that have served rural British Columbians for over 30 years. Our organization has been working and discussing issues with this government since its inception. We are driven by our ongoing commitment to our membership to help them have the best business model possible which allows them to serve their communities, their employees, and the organizations that rely on them.
Re: The Rural Agency Program and Liquor Reform
The Rural Agency Store Advisory Society (RASAS) has lobbied the government for six years for changes to the RAS program. The result of these efforts has been; one free delivery a week, the ability to order directly from BC wineries, ordering SIPs products, flex pricing and most recently the 2% increase in the discount. All RAS are unique and only a very few can utilize these changes. An additional increase in the discount is the greatest benefit for all RAS.
A review by the Liberal government done in 2008 clearly states the following:
(a) Rural Agency Store (RAS) owners keep their RAS licenses because in smaller and rural communities there is a different nature to the customer/business relationship. In large centers there is an anonymity allowing business to behave in a businesslike manner. In smaller communities - the kind the RAS programs attract, there is a different expectation. Once the merchant begins carrying liquor the community expects this to continue regardless of economic impacts.
(b) Returning the RAS license would have a greater negative impact on the business than keeping the RAS license and losing money. This applies not only to carrying liquor, but also carrying specific slow moving products that community members have come to rely on.
(c) When the RAS program and margins were implemented, credit and debit cards were not accepted. The effects of Visa/MC/Amex @ 2.5% (or greater) is an expense to the RAS and dropped their gross profit by another 2.5 %.
The recommendations we would like to submit would even the playing field, give each Rural Agency Store the chance to be competitive, and give them cost benefits equal to urban areas and provide selections of product:
- Increase the RAS discount to match the urban retail store (LRS).
- No back door dealing; CSP – (Limited to selected wholesale customer) product should be offered to all liquor stores and not for exclusive purchase at a reduced price to one liquor entity.
- Participate in all promotions offered to the LRS and GLS.
- Protect the RAS program. Acknowledge their unique nature and expectations of the business from their communities.
- By protecting this program we recognize that having competitive liquor sales in Rural BC, it will keep its residents from driving to urban centers to purchase their liquor. By doing so, we help to protect our communities from drinking and driving.
- Regulate Brewers Distributors Ltd:
a) All RAS are entitled to one delivery a week regardless of their location
b) Proper allocation of LTO and LTA promotional products to all wholesale customers, for example 18 packs Budweiser.
c) Proper payment to all RAS on their beer (cans & bottles) returns
- Increase the percent of partial cases allowing the RAS to provide a larger selection of products for the consumer.
- Raise the maximum of 20 dozen beer purchased from the LDB and GLS to accommodate the smaller RAS.
- Review and refine the policy for returns and breakage.
- Allow the RAS license to transfer with the sale of the business, currently this is implied but not guaranteed and the current system flies in the face of sound business practice.
- After years of creating and the cultivation of the RAS and LRS systems, we are very opposed to the introduction of selling liquor in the grocery and big box stores. By introducing this avenue to the already quite prosperous corporate world, this government would be contradicting itself by allowing this change to the present system. Small business has invested millions in their businesses and in job creation. It would be a detriment to British Columbians to now permit this ability to grocery stores as this would undeniably put the existing liquor retailers out of business.
The time is ripe for reform. Reform for the liquor industry in British Columbia and the RAS program in particular. Let us reform an archaic system that the RAS program has been working under for decades, making them more competitive and treating them fairly so they can serve rural communities better and more efficiently. These are the rural communities that are the gateways to tourism, forestry, mining and the natural resources that so richly reward this province. We are so much more than the general store, post office and liquor store. We are the main employers and information centers of these communities providing support for all non-profit organizations and emergency programs like the food bank, first responders and volunteer fire departments. Let us not forget what Christie Clark meant in her acceptance speech when she spoke of rural British Columbians being “a full partner in our prosperity”.
Trent Leggett, President
Rural Agency Advisory Society