Beer and wine outsell hard liquor, says Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission

The Iqaluit beer and wine store sold $12.5 million worth of beverages in 2021.

Daniel Young, director of the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission, says people choose lower alcohol products more than hard liquor.

“It was the whole intention of the [beer and wine] store and I think it works,” Young said.

The Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission made $1.67 million on spirits in 2017. This includes sales from bars, restaurants, special occasions, beer and wine stores, and community orders.

The Iqaluit beer and wine store became permanent in June 2020, with the goal of reducing hard liquor consumption, encouraging responsible drinking, and combating smuggling.

Limits are set on the amount of alcohol a person can purchase from the beer and wine store. Up to 24 cans or bottles of beer or coolers, or up to four bottles of wine or a three-liter case. Combinations can include two bottles of wine and 12 cans, or three bottles of wine and six cans.

But liquor purchases through the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission have no limits. Young says it was a regulation of the Liquor Control Act and a government decision at the time.

Young is the director of the Nunavut Alcohol and Cannabis Commission. (Travis Burke/CBC)

“When the [beer and wine] store was opened, there was a lot of concern that people would drink a lot more and that’s why the government at the time decided to put limits on it,” Young said.

But the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission’s pricing structure means that lower alcohol content items are cheaper than higher alcohol content items.

“Higher percentage beer attracts a higher markup than lower percentage beer and the same goes for wine and spirits,” Young said.

Iqaluit Beer and Wine Store

In 2021, the Iqaluit beer and wine store sold over 2.8 million cans and bottles of beer.

“That translates to just over a million liters of beer at this location alone,” Young said.

Young says beer is by far the most popular product in the beer and wine store.

The Iqaluit store sold 130,400 bottles of wine and 305,700 “ready to drink” items such as coolers and ciders in the same year.

Young says that’s consistent with sales in 2020.

Opening of Rankin Inlet store

In December, the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission opened its second beer and wine store in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

For the month of December, the new store achieved sales of $309,000. The Iqaluit beer and wine store for the same month made $980,200.

Rankin Inlet has less than half of Iqaluit’s population, about 3,000 people. The population of Iqaluit is approximately 8,000 people.

In the first month the Rankin Inlet store was open, it sold 61,400 cans and bottles of beer, 2,800 bottles of wine and 12,100 units of ready-to-drink items.

“It’s kind of hard to extrapolate to a single month, especially December, which is always a little bit different with holidays and work closures and things like that,” Young said.

He says it will take longer to know if the numbers will sink.

The Iqaluit beer and wine store sold 210,000 cans and bottles of beer, 10,200 bottles of wine and 26,400 ready-to-drink items for the month of December.

Cambridge Bay could see the next beer and wine store

Young says the next community where the Nunavut Liquor and Cannabis Commission plans to open a beer and wine store is Cambridge Bay.

The community expressed interest in 2017. Young says any community that expresses interest in the finance minister could potentially see a store open.

“However, we are learning with the Rankin Inlet store that our current model is not too viable as a community gets smaller [in population]“, said Young.

Young says the commission doesn’t have the capacity to open multiple stores at once, but will explore options if a community signals interest.

“We’re considering everything from opening a full store ourselves to partnering with a local business to run an agency-style store.”

Aurora J. William