Quebec grocers call for action on credit card fees, proposed alcohol legislation

At the association's annual conference, key issues were credit card fees and proposed changes to alcohol legislation

Food retailers in Quebec must flex their political muscles locally if they hope to solve frustrating industry issues like credit card fees, officials with their provincial association said at a roundtable meeting during the association’s 58th annual meeting held in Quebec City from Nov. 15–17.

“You won’t get any sympathy from the public,” said Pierre-Alexandre Blouin (see picture at left), vice president of public affairs of the Association des détaillants en alimentation du Québec (ADAQ). “People think you are all millionaires.”

Both Blouin and ADAQ president Daniel Choquette (pictured far right), a Provigo store owner who co-hosted the event, encouraged association members to work with their local chambers of commerce and other business leaders to push government for legislation to notably cap the fees being charged by MasterCard and Visa.

“We are all small players, but we’re big employers–sometimes the biggest if you are in a small community,” noted Blouin.  “We’re asking each of you to push for change at every forum you can find.”

Philippe Pilliot, general manager of France’s biggest grocers’ union, the Fédération nationale de l’épicerie, applauded that grassroots approach.

He said that many grocers across France have negotiated 40% reductions in their banking fees after heeding a call to action from their association.

“The call had a massive effect on our members,” said Pilliot.  “(Grocers) have clout if they choose to use it.”

Other industry issues that were raised included proposed regulatory changes on the sale of alcohol.

Those changes range from lifting the restrictions and new indexes on the types and prices of wines and beers Quebec stores can sell, to the hours when they can sell them.

The possibility that on-site sales at brew pubs (establishments that combine microbrewery with traditional pubs) will be legalized was also mentioned. “We don’t oppose that,” said Blouin. “But what we get in return?”

He added that opening the door to brew-pub sales “could open the door” to alcohol sales by big retailers like Walmart, which Blouin said is the largest alcohol sales retailer in the U.S.

Blouin also pointed to the results of a Léger poll that found 72% of consumers would like to see more Quebec-made wines in stores. The same poll also found that 48% of respondents said they would buy those wines at grocery stores.

Other issues discussed at the roundtable included the return of cans and bottles, which Blouin called “a huge problem for our back stores,” and the ADAQ’s efforts to attack what he called “the glass crisis” by going with a single point of service for the collection and management of recyclable materials.

The session ended with Blouin calling on individual store owners to lobby for industry issues, and to try and find new members.

“We’re asking each of you to make a small effort,” said Blouin.

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