Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Safeway first grocer in city to open Liquor Mart

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A litre of milk, a loaf of bread, a stick of butter and a bottle of rum.

Or wine or beer.

The Pembina Village Safeway store is the first grocer in the city to open a Liquor Mart Express.

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission-operated store-within-a-store had a soft opening on Monday and will have an official ribbon cutting on Friday.

The mini-liquor stores -- an undetermined number will be opened in Winnipeg and Brandon -- will be different from the coffee shops or floral kiosks that have grown in number in grocery stores in recent years. They will be separate stores, complete with their own four walls and cash registers.

Because of their smaller footprint -- it's estimated they will range in size from 600 to 1,500 square feet -- they won't be able to stock the same breadth of product as traditional liquor stores, but each will offer a selection of beer, wine and spirits.

John Graham, spokesman for Calgary-based Canada Safeway, said it's not too much of a stretch for the company because it already sells liquor in stores elsewhere in North America, including Alberta. Safeway also has plenty of experience dealing with controlled substances as its pharmacies handle prescription medication of all kinds and its stores sell tobacco products.

"This is a natural extension of providing convenience for busy customers who may be making multiple stops. If we can provide access to the most popular (liquor) products at our store, we think that will provide a natural draw to the Pembina Village location," he said.

The MLCC issued a request for proposals late last year for grocers interested in having Liquor Mart Express locations built within their stores.

The idea was to add convenience for consumers, primarily in the southwest and northeast parts of town that are under-serviced by full-size MLCC locations.

The goal isn't to compete with existing liquor retailers, including private wine stores, the MLCC said at the time. An MLCC spokesman wasn't available for comment on Wednesday.

Graham said the Liquor Mart Express at the Pembina Village store is presently a "project of one" but Safeway is interested in hosting liquor outlets in other stores where it makes sense for both parties. The challenge for Safeway, however, is many of its existing locations are already within a stone's throw of MLCC outlets.

The MLCC's stipulation that no express outlet be built within a two-kilometre radius of its full-service stores immediately eliminates a significant number of Safeway stores from any expansion plans.

The MLCC opened its first express location at the Richardson International Airport year ago.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2012 B5


Updated on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 9:44 AM CST: replaces photo

3:59 PM: Safeway is the first grocer in Winnipeg to open a Liquor Mart. Several grocery stores across the province sell liquor.

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