Saturday, March 23, 2013

The LCBO Power Trip

From a bygone era:  Massive, full of cracks and dragging bottom
For me searching for different wines is both relaxing and rewarding especially when I find value in or out of Ontario Outlets. However, I find the restraint the LCBO exerts on the distribution of wines and the comparative throttling of product labels does a disservice not only to consumers but to both Ontario and Federal economies. The only reason I can think of is the LCBO is on a Power Trip!  They've lost sight of growing the market meaningfully - seeing every initiative for change as a challenge, defending the moat while the castle crumbles from within. In 2007/2008 Liquor revenues in BC (a mix of private and government stores) and Alberta (all private stores) outpaced Ontario on a per capita basis.(ref 3)

Imagine if the Ontario wine trade were unshackled how much faster wines could be delivered to Ontarians. Instead of a fraction of world wines trickling into the market over a time scale only a snail can appreciate hundreds of world connected agents would be plying their trade to consumers, that's us, anxious to pursue our life style unencumbered by self-appointed wine merchants, LCBO employees not being paid to obtain the best for the least but to maintain margins, track consumer purchases and take away revenue generating avenues customary of other retail products: the spread of associated activities... from tastings to auctions, from competitions to advertising, the election of exemplary wines and wineries by region and style... the list goes on...  each could be the byproduct of a free retail market. Instead of a limited number of outlets growing larger in adulterated plonk Ontario would have legions of specialized stores encouraging and serving a growing demand for quality wines- proprietors knowing their customers have alternatives. 

If I can draw a parallel to the Cellular business in which 4 or 5 companies divvy up a limited frequency spectrum capitalising on an ability to communicate over long distances, the CRTC governs the assignment of bandwidth that leads to the parcelling of services and fees from cell- phone to Cable/Satellite TV. Once a simple service - as little as an antenna in the attic - is now a rigidly structured contract controlled by a select few - the perfect storm for monopolistic manipulators stifling technology to the financial benefit of the all powerful Internet Service Providers.

And so goes the Liquor Control Board of Ontario...  unrestricted power via government allotment. Born out of provincial powers at a time when alcohol's place in a prewar, post depression society was thought to be needing restrictions. In modern day the same format now fosters and protects unnecessary roles of so many rising stars... marketers all, the LCBO Wine 'Consultants'. Not to say 'they' aren't nice folk... they're just not needed. When any other Company grows obese it pares away the middle. On the other hand the LCBO fills in with make-work projects.

You can tell how frustrated I have become having to patronize Outlets grown stale in concept and product. I'm tired of sampling mediocrity hoping to find that one bottle that comes close to the outdated notes credited to wine critics or the 'Vintages Panel'. Continuing the release of ISDs (In Store Discoveries) 15 more are to be released on April 13th averaging in the $50 range. I'm told they are to be located on the General shelves. Is this a dream child of an LCBO 'Consultant'. Why do we need another classification?  and what's the reason to merge them with the Generals?

I'm of a previous generation when what a retailer says and does is conveyed in words without exaggeration or hidden motive.
The LCBO shuns their responsibility opting to reinforce every niche in their armour and breach in their fortress - now a generation of entrepreneurs willing to ignore Federal law and challenge consumer advocates. We don't have a cadre of bureaucrats determining levels of imports for other products - why do we have a whole bureaucracy for wine?

My opinion, Ww  

  1. Interprovincial direct sale and delivery of wine for personal consumption
  2. FreeMyGrapes  
  3. OntarioWineReview: Burning Down the House 

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