January 19, 2020

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Increasing safety, declining sales?

Some beer, wine shoppers will steer clear of more secure — but more inconvenient — Liquor Marts, retail experts predict

Liquor Marts have a wide selection and staff have a friendly reputation, but that might not be enough to prevent a hit to sales because of new, strict security measures.

Tightened entrance security at stores will minimize the time shoppers spend inside stores and deter some from buying beer and wine at the government-run stores altogether, customer behaviour experts say.

When people feel comfortable inside a store, they tend to browse and the longer they do so, their shopping cart fills up, said Olya Bullard, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Winnipeg whose expertise is in judgment and decision-making.

"We maybe went into Liquor Mart for a bottle of red wine and then walked out with a bottle of red wine and something else or maybe two something elses," Bullard said. "Spontaneous shopping is really something that retailers capitalize on."

She noted research indicates that for every one per cent increase in time spent in a store, the amount of money spent goes up by 1.3 per cent.

If shoppers feel awkward, uncomfortable or like they’re being watched, Bullard said their habits change and they tend to buy less.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries’ plan to crack down on store access was announced ahead of schedule this week when a 15-year-old attacked three employees during an armed robbery at the Tyndall Market mall Liquor Mart Wednesday afternoon.

The teen made a brief court appearance Friday at the Manitoba Youth Centre. He told provincial court Judge Cynthia Devine he wants to apply for bail. No date has been set for a hearing. Aside from duty counsel, no one appeared in court on his behalf.

Police dusts for prints as they investigate the robbery at the Liquor Mart on Keewatin Avenue. (John Woods / Winnipegt Free Press)

Police dusts for prints as they investigate the robbery at the Liquor Mart on Keewatin Avenue. (John Woods / Winnipegt Free Press)

The case was remanded until Wednesday.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries had already begun construction on a secure entrance at the store at Keewatin Street and Burrows Avenue. The same measure will be put in place at store entrances across the province in the coming months.

Customers will be required to provide valid photo identification — driver's licence, Manitoba ID card, passport, certificate of Indian status or two forms of government-issued ID, one of which includes a photo — at a security station in a controlled entrance before they are allowed inside the locked inner doors of an outlet. Minors will also be banned from entering stores.

Bullard said while sales will take a hit as a result, she doubts customers will steer clear of the stores altogether, because of the wide array of products available; independent beer and wine retailers are not allowed to sell spirits.

The MLL’s latest annual report indicates its liquor operations brought in $794.6 million in revenue in 2018-19, down $5.8 million or about one per cent from the previous year. The report notes declines were seen in its beer and wine categories while spirits remained flat.

The Manitoba Liquor Mart on Keewatin was closed on Wednesday after an employee was injured in a robbery. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Manitoba Liquor Mart on Keewatin was closed on Wednesday after an employee was injured in a robbery. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Subbu Sivaramakrishnan, an associate professor of marketing at the Asper School of Business who researches consumer behaviour, said he suspects beer and wine sales at Liquor Marts could decline.

"If I have a toddler in the car who I can't take into the store, I’m not going to leave her in the car, so I'm going to find another store," Sivaramakrishnan said.

He added that people will likely get used to the new security measures over time, but a growing trend seems to be shoppers preferring minimal interaction in stores.

"Retail is increasingly moving to online shopping. Even in brick-and-mortar stores, you find an increase in self-checkout lanes. People are looking for faster and convenient, and when there's additional human interaction involved, that’s being looked at as an inconvenience," he said.

There’s a possibility, he added, Liquor Marts could also see more customers buying booze online than in physical stores.

“They will probably see some tradeoffs there, but if they make things easier and safer for their employees and customers, it’s worth the risk.” - Maureen Atkinson, senior adviser at retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group

Police have said thefts at Liquor Marts in Winnipeg are occurring at a rate of between 10 and 30 times a day and are becoming increasingly violent.

"(MLL is) erring on the side of protecting their employees," said Maureen Atkinson, a senior adviser at Toronto retail consulting firm J.C. Williams Group.

"They will probably see some tradeoffs there, but if they make things easier and safer for their employees and customers, it’s worth the risk."

Gary Davlut, president of the Winnipeg Central Business Association, also applauded the measures, even though he said the enhanced security might result in ID check lineups during peak holiday times.

"I think it’s going to be effective, absolutely," he said, adding that once the busy season is complete, MLL security guards will "have it down to a science."

The MLL declined an interview Friday. A spokesperson said the Crown corporation is focused on its employees and customers and that it cannot provide further specifics about security procedures and initiatives.

— With files from Dean Pritchard

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie is a cub reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.

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