Beer and wine sales up in Nunavut, liquor sales down

Statistics Canada's latest report shows beer and wine sales are up significantly since the retail store opened in Iqaluit, but liquor sales are down by 12 per cent.

Nunavut saw 'larger than usual' change in buying habits the same year a beer and wine store opened in Iqaluit

Statistics Canada's latest report shows beer and wine sales are up significantly in Nunavut, but liquor sales are down. Long lines were a constant feature of the first week for the territory's new beer and wine retail outlet, which opened that year. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Alcohol buying habits in Nunavut shifted in a big way the same year a beer and wine store opened in the territorial capital, according to the latest report on retail sales from Statistics Canada.

Sales of wine went up by 278.6 per cent in 2017-18, adding up to $2.3 million in total sales.

Beer sales were up by 76.6 percent, compared to 0.8 per cent nationally, totalling $5.7 million.

Sales of liquor, which is not available at the retail outlet, dropped by 12.4 per cent for a total of $1.3 million in sales.

Adding in $83,000 in sales of coolers, ciders and other "refreshment" beverages, the total sales in the territory amounted to $9.3 million, an increase of 75 per cent over the previous year. 

To purchase liquor, people in Iqaluit must order from the liquor warehouse in Rankin Inlet, or from outside the territory, which requires a permit. 

The drop in liquor sales in Nunavut also bucks the national trend, which saw an increase of 4.4 per cent in Canada overall.

Liquor commission report breaks out Iqaluit figures

The latest report from the territory's liquor board, released last year, breaks down the statistics further, showing that the dollar value of sales of wine in Iqaluit increased by 351 per cent and beer by 80 per cent. The dollar value of liquor sales, on the other hand, dropped by more than 12 per cent.

The commission calls this a positive result, citing the government's 2012 Liquor Act Review Task Force which recommended a beer and wine store as a way to reduce the harm of hard liquor, binge drinking and bootlegging.

It also noted statistics from the Qikiqtani General Hospital, the Department of Health, and the RCMP, all of which indicated no significant change in alcohol-related hospital visits or interactions with police and social services. 

The exception was the City of Iqaluit's anecdotal report of increased public intoxication, including "individuals ... walking on the streets with open cans of beer." City officials commented that they were also dealing with more litter — specifically beer cans, wine bottles and broken glass near city limits.

Beer takes largest market share in Nunavut and Yukon

The Statistics Canada report also shows that beer continued to be the beverage of choice in Nunavut, representing 60.7 per cent of alcohol sales in the territory. In total, Nunavummiut purchased 835,000 litres of beer, or about 2.35 million cans.

In the Northwest Territories liquor sales had the largest market share, representing 40.2 per cent of total alcoholic beverage sales.

In the Yukon beer sales out-paced liquor and wine sales, representing 46 per cent of the alcohol purchased in the territory.


  • A previous version of this story indicated a permit is required to order liquor from the warehouse in Rankin Inlet. In fact, a permit is required when ordering liquor from outside the territory.
    May 15, 2019 8:24 AM CT