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Ontario's LCBO plans mini-outlets in grocery stores

Crown retailer also plans for VQA boutiques in LCBO stores

LCBO, Ontario's Crown-owned liquor marketer, plans to boost its revenues by setting up shop within grocery stores starting in 2013, and by offering Ontario-focused boutiques within some of its own outlets.

"Ontarians have been asking for more convenience in where they purchase alcohol beverages" and also have a "growing interest" in local wines, provincial Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said in a release Monday.

LCBO, the province said, will move immediately to "explore options" for the two new store formats, and expects to have openings for both types of outlets over the next 12 to 18 months.

The outlets within larger grocery stores, to be dubbed LCBO Express, would carry "a wide range of products, including Ontario wine, spirits and beer" and allow LCBO "to meet consumer demand for convenience," the province said.

The province in its release didn't name any large grocery stores or chains interested in hosting LCBO Express outlets; a representative from Duncan's office wasn't immediately available Monday.

Over the same time frame, the province said Monday, certain full-size LCBO stores are to be renovated to include LCBO VQA Destination Boutiques.

The new stores-within-stores would offer "an expanded selection of Ontario's VQA wines, including hard-to-find wines from smaller producers."

Such boutiques are expected to "make it easier for customers to discover and learn about VQA wines while helping support Ontario wineries." LCBO did not yet name any specific stores expected to add the new boutiques.

VQA, the Vintners' Quality Alliance program, designates wines made in Ontario using strictly Ontario-grown grapes and includes products from over 100 wineries provincewide. A similar VQA program operates in British Columbia for that province's wines.

In Ontario, the VQA label is meant to give consumers a simple way to tell Ontario-grown and -produced wines apart from those made using foreign/domestic blends. Ontario and B.C. wineries' non-VQA products are usually labelled as "Cellared in Canada."

Introducing the two new store formats, in tandem with LCBO's ongoing store expansion plan, is expected to yield "additional revenues" to help draw down the provincial deficit and support core provincial programs, the government said Monday.

Ontario, it noted, now has the lowest number of alcohol retail stores per capita of any province.

Related stories:
Ont. vineyards expect major demand for 2012 crush,
Dec. 4, 2012
Ont. to sell LCBO HQ, takes aim at horseracing funds,
Feb. 13, 2012



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