American friends who’ve come up to Toronto for a visit or on business have tended to marvel at the sight of big buildings along major roadways that say simply: BEER STORE.
They are Ontario government-regulated stores that only sell beer, and many of them are set up like small warehouses, with a front order desk and 12 and 24-boxes that come flying out from the back on a steel roller track after you pay. There ARE some stores that actually let you go in the chiller area and hump out your own selection to the cashier, but most involve telling a person at cash what you want – and then that order goes to the people working in the back.
I note all this because for decades, consumers made their selection by scanning this amazing, wide wall of beer bottle and can labels, looking for what they wanted. The order wall got steadily bigger as liquor laws loosened and more imports came into the country, and the craft brewer scene bubbled up.
Now, the Beer Store is streamlining the selection and ordering process by going digital – which makes a world of sense.
Instead of the Beer Wall, the retailer that pretty much has a monopoly on selling beer (you can buy six-packs at government run liquor stores or at a very limited selection of grocery stores) is adding what are being called Pricing Information Centres, or PICs. They are free-standing kiosks that provide customers with product visuals and pricing. They also confirm product availability and inventory levels by individual location.
“The Beer Store, along with its 25 brewer-owners from across Ontario, is working to enhance the customer experience in our stores, beginning with a store re-design,” says Beer Store President Ted Moroz in a press release.
Cineplex Digital Media won the digital deal, and the units will be in place is 367 Beer Stores around Ontario by the middle of next month. Cineplex had already been doing a digital signage program in roughly 150 stores.
As in the US, liquor laws vary by jurisdiction, in this case province. In Quebec, you can buy beer at a corner store. In Manitoba, you can get beer at drive-thrus tied in to motor hotels. I don’t THINK there’s anything else like the Beer Store in other provinces.