Booze bump

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Liquor corporation raises prices to hit revenue targets

Various products line the shelves of the NLC outlet on Topsail Road. Most consumers weren’t too upset by a hike in the price of alcoholic beverages. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Liquor will leave your wallet a little lighter after the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corp. raised prices Sunday.

The corporation’s CEO, Steve Winter, said the increases were necessary to meet the year’s budget targets.

“Essentially, we have commitments to the Department of Finance every year to make a certain budget number, and in order to make the budget number for this year, we felt we had to put the prices up,” said Winter, who estimated the fiscal year about to end will deliver about $142 million in revenue for the provincial government.

Prices went up March 3 — the start of the week for the corporation, and the beginning of the final period of its fiscal year — ranging from a 70-cent bump on a 750-millilitre bottle of spirits, 50 cents on a 750-millilitre bottle of wine and 20 cents per dozen beer, the standard sizes used for price increases.

Prices went up on other sizes and quantities of containers, too, on a graduated scale — about 12 cents on a six-pack of beer, for example.

“Six-packs cost more per (millilitre) than 12 packs, which cost more per (millilitre) than 24 packs, so it’s a graduated scale,” said Winter.

It’s the first increase on spirits since November 2011, but beer went up 30 cents a dozen in May last year. Wine prices have been mostly stable for the last three years, said Winter.

“We haven’t been dealing with a lot of price changes in our environment, so this really shouldn’t be unexpected,” said Winter, who added revenue pressures are an ongoing concern.

Last week, the Telegram reported there were nine management and three union terminations at the corporation as the provincial government cuts positions in several departments.

“They happen periodically because costs change and our operating structure needs to be dealt with periodically, whether it’s cutting employees or increasing the prices, whatever the numbers we have to make,” Winter said.

He added customers need to expect periodic increases.

“We get people emailing us or things on the website asking why they can buy it in Florida so much cheaper,” he said.

“A good suggestion would be to try getting sick in Florida, and see how much that costs them.”

Winter said he didn’t expect many complaints about the price increases.

 

“There rarely is any reaction to it,” Winter said.

“Changes are not frequent. They’re not large on a percentage basis. They’re not big changes. So you don’t tend to get much reaction. When to stop to think about it, these are all products that you have a choice whether you want to buy them or not. If you don’t want to buy them, you don’t buy them. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that somebody buys liquor and not groceries, so we all have choices to make in our lives. This is not one that people have to make.”

Customers interviewed at the Topsail Road liquor store Wednesday said they hadn’t noticed the increases — which, some of them added, are usually inevitable.

Gord Follett of Mount Pearl said he doesn’t buy alcohol enough to notice price changes or for changes to make much of a difference.

“We’ve gotten used to that. Every year or twice a year prices go up, whether it’s on cigarettes or beer or whatever, so we’re kind of used to it,” he said.

Gladys Horan of St. John’s said she hadn’t noticed the increase — even though she felt it was a big one.

“I’m not here that often, and I don’t think it would make much difference,” she said. “Seventy cents is a lot, though, when you think about it.”

Sam Tiller of St. John’s likewise wasn’t aware of the increase, but said it doesn’t matter. “It wouldn’t make a difference, no.”

Some examples of price differences:

• Lamb’s Palm Breeze Rum — $25.29 to $25.99

• Yellow Tail wine — $12.99 to $13.49

• Wolf Blass Yellow Label — $17.97 to $18.47

• Domestic beer — $23.79 to $23.99

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

 Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Newfoundland Labrador Liquor, Department of Finance

Geographic location: Florida, Topsail Road, Mount Pearl

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