Ontario Tears Down Its Beer Wall, Goes Interactive

May 12, 2016 by Dave Haynes


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.

Photo: Schoolhouse Craft Beer

Photo: Schoolhouse Craft Beer

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.


  1. Editor says:

    Here’s why it doesn’t make sense, though. The walls displayed brands to all customers stopping in. The computer screens require you to make an active choice to browse them … and even then, you need to be looking for something specific. Totally different dynamic.

    I used to consider new brews while waiting to return empties. Now I don’t have that option at all. Even if I had an active inkling to browse, the screens aren’t near where I’m lining up. In fact, they’re hardly advertised at all.

    The other change you mentioned, i.e. some stores letting customers wander through the chilled room and see actual beers in front of them, is of course the much better option.

  2. Dave Haynes says:

    Interesting point … I find the wall overwhelming, but I am rarely dealing with that, as I tend to just pick up a six-pack at the LCBO, and the nearest BEER STORE is one of those larger ones where they crazily let shoppers walk around and pick up what they want.

    While having the info screens at or near the line-up would create logjams, I think, which might be the thinking behind placing them elsewhere

  3. Editor says:

    Yup. Which is why I mean it’s a different beast; an interactive catalogue, rather than a menu board.

  4. Neil Bron Chatwood says:

    Simple fix : Change the attract mode to feature new/exciting brews added to inventory.

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