LCBO Marks 95 Years as it Opens Newest Storefront at Toronto’s Union Station [Photos/Interview]

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The Liquor Control Board of Ontario recently opened its newest location at Union Station in Toronto as the Crown Corporation continues to expand its footprint in the province while celebrating 95 years in business this year.

“It is astonishing to look back and see how far we have come as a business and as an industry over the last 95 years. As the LCBO continues to evolve, we will remain focused on helping customers discover and enjoy our products responsibly, providing seamless shopping experiences and creating a more sustainable Ontario. Together with our industry partners, we are now laying the foundation for the next 95 years,” said George Soleas, President & CEO of LCBO.

Located in the country’s busiest transit hub, the Union Station store will service more than 75,000 residents in the area as well as 300,000 daily commuters, tourists and event goers. It is conveniently located in the Bay concourse, within steps of the TTC, GO Transit, and VIA Rail.  

“Union Station is the busiest building in the country. It is also one of the most beautiful and historically significant,” said Soleas. “We are excited to be one of the first retailers in the Bay concourse and to provide even more convenience for our customers, as they pick up the perfect choice on their way to or from downtown.”

LCBO at Union Station (Image: LCBO)
Image: LCBO

At approximately 7,000 square feet, the store features more than 1,000 products.

The LCBO has more than 680 stores in the province with a couple more opening this year.

George Soleas

It was established in 1927 and today offers more than 28,000 products annually from more than 80 countries to consumers and licensed establishments. 

All net income from LCBO sales goes to the Government of Ontario in the form of an annual dividend, which helps fund key local and provincial public programs and services including health care, education, and infrastructure. In 2020-2021 Fiscal Year, it delivered a $2.39 billion dividend to the Ontario Government.

LCBO also has five regional warehouse facilities and is a wholesaler to 450 grocery stores. The LCBO Convenience Outlet program services almost 400 local communities. It provides wholesale support for 18,000 bars and restaurants.

Image: LCBO

In its 2020-2021 annual report, the LCBO’s key financial data indicated $7.18 billion in revenue, $2.54 billion in net income, $140+ million in total e-commerce sales, and grocery sales from the wholesale supply of beer, wine and cider to grocery stores of $486.5 million with 450 active store authorizations by the end of FY2021.

In his message in the annual report, Soleas said the LCBO has accelerated the growth of its e-commerce channel to meet evolving customer preferences, bringing the brand promise to life online. 

“As we look toward next year, we know the only thing that is constant is change. Ontarians are shifting their shopping behaviours and continue to have a strong desire to explore local producers. We’ll look to expand popular initiatives like Pair It Forward which celebrates Ontario’s spectacular food and beverage producers, starting a chain reaction of their favourite pairings for their products while shining a spotlight on local farmers, growers and makers throughout the province, showing the world what Ontario is truly made of,” he said. 

The annual report said FY2021 net sales and income outpaced plan levels, and grew 6.2 per cent and 5.7 per cent respectively, relative to the previous year. The home consumer channel accounted for the largest share of LCBO sales at 83 per cent, up 452 basis points from FY2020. Net income reached a record $2.54 billion in FY2021, an additional $136.8 million from the previous year. It represented 35.3 per cent of revenues, which was 15 basis points lower than FY2020. 

Image: LCBO

The LCBO added nine new stores to its retail network during the year and closed one store. Eight other stores were either relocated or underwent major renovations in FY2021. The grocery channel, established in December 2015, added the final 11 locations to reach the 450 planned authorizations during the year. Sales to grocery stores grew by 52 per cent to $486.5 million in FY2021. The LCBO Convenience Outlet Program continued its expansion with a further 30 locations during the year, providing socially responsible beverage alcohol retail to communities lacking convenient access to an LCBO store. Sales through this program almost doubled to $293.6 million from the previous year, added the report.

“The abnormal circumstances of LCBO’s revenue growth in FY2021 was unlike previous years/. The effects of the usual holiday and long weekends sales build, sporting and public events and activities, and favourable seasonal weather, among others, were all tempered during the year. Restrictive measures, including multiple lockdowns, to curb mass gathering in public places, especially in relation to dining out, resulted in a transfer to greater off-premise alcohol consumption,” said the report. 

“Forced staycations, increased household savings and promoted self-entertainment, contributed to alcohol sales growth. LCBO’s performance was buoyed by consumers’ resilience and the company’s ability to quickly adapt to the economic, retail and health dynamics of the environment. Amidst store closures, reduced operating hours and implementing health and safety protocols under the guidance of Public Health, which included strict policing of in-store customer capacity and cleaning and sanitization practices, LCBO further pursued measures to satisfy demand and improve convenience. Examples of these measures included, continued retail store network expansion, improvement of eCommerce delivery options, greater support to the grocer and LCBO convenience outlet channels, responding to consumers’ changing preferences and demands with regards to product preferences and selections, and coordinating with stakeholders to facilitate amendments to licensees’ alcohol retailing policies.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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