Union calls for deeper probe of SAQ
Between 1992, the first year of privatization, and 2004, Alberta alcohol prices increased by 39 per cent vs. 21 per cent in Quebec and 27 per cent in Ontario, Carbonneau said. Hourly wages of liquor store employees, meanwhile, dropped by 36 per cent.
When the union itself compared the prices of 45 randomly chosen wines and spirits at the SAQ, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and a high-end liquor store in Calgary whose selection and quality matched that of the SAQ, it found many prices were highest at the privately run store.
While the mushrooming of new stores after privatization, from 310 to 1,087, brought some savings, price, quality, selection and knowledge of staff vary widely, the union said. Even though the overall number of products might be greater (12,000 vs. about 7,000 in Quebec), there is no guarantee consumers will find them on the shelves of their local liquor store, which, on average, carries 200 to 300 products vs. 1,000 at an SAQ outlet.
Alberta trust on hunt for outlets in fragmented market
It's a familiar story -- an Alberta business that's growing rapidly, looking for acquisitions wherever it can and boosting distributions ahead of schedule.
The only thing that's missing is oil.
Since its inception in late 2004, Edmonton-based Liquor Stores Income Fund has proven that Alberta is a pretty good place for booze retailing, too. With a strong balance sheet and a record of quick growth, the income trust -- a product of the marriage of two liquor store companies -- is still hungry. And in a highly fragmented Alberta liquor store market, it's moving aggressively to position itself atop the consolidation mountain.
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