Iqaluit's beer and wine store sells 10% of its projected yearly sales in first 4 days

Initial estimates projected $1 million in product sales for the store, but the assistant deputy minister of finance says actual sales could be significantly higher.

$100,000 worth of product sold after 'brisk' four days, territorial government officials say

On Friday, some estimated they waited in line over an hour before reaching the counter of the beer and wine store. (Travis Burke/CBC)

Iqaluit's beer and wine store sold 10 per cent of its projected yearly sales in its first four days, according to Dan Carlson, the assistant deputy minister of Nunavut's Department of Finance.

"Sales have been brisk, we've always expected [that] and it's no surprise to us that the first week of sales were quite high. The first four days we sold about $100,000 worth of product," Carlson said.

Initial estimates projected $1 million in product sales for the store, but Carlson says actual sales could be significantly higher. 

But he says he expects the novelty to wear off and the roughly 75-person-long lines to shrink. 
Satscan's latest reports shows that beer and wine sales are up significantly in Nunavut, but liquor sales are down, in the same year the beer and wine store opened in Iqaluit. Long lines were a constant feature of the first week for the new retail outlet. (Travis Burke/CBC)

"One thing we noticed on Saturday was that [the line] was a bit of a social event. It was a nice day, the sun was shining, it was fresh air...there was a young girl selling chili dogs," he said.

He said it helped that the line moved efficiently.

In the store's first four days, it served 1,400 customers, some of whom dropped by more than once, meaning there were around 2,100 transactions processed by its three cash registers.

Beer made up about 60 per cent of the purchases, Carlson said.

After sealift stocks run out, the government has budgeted for the year to bring in more alcohol by air cargo, so Carlson says he is not expecting prices to go up, though that could change. 

The RCMP said in a press release it has not noticed an increase in calls involving alcohol since the store's opening, despite its "tremendous popularity". 
Iqaluit's beer and wine store opened its doors for the first time Sept. 6, in its first four days of business patrons bought $100,000 worth of product. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Paying for itself

Revenues from the store will cover the cost of operating the warehouse and store, the capital costs of building the store and an ongoing education program about alcohol safety.

The budget earmarks up to $500,000 a year for the education campaign that's called "Let's Be Aware".

In its current form, the program targets the general population, but in the next few years could target youth or alcohol-education committees in some of the communities, Carlson said.

The store cost around $2 million to get up and running, including warehouse and software upgrades.

Additional profits will be fed back into the territory's general revenue pool for social programs.

The store would be open to selling beer from the Nunavut Brewing Company, which expects to get its final sealift and brewmaster at the end of the month, Carlson said. 

The Iqaluit Brewing Company, which received city council approval at the same time as the other brewery and had Hunter Tootoo involved in the project, never made it to applying for a licence from the Nunavut Liquor Licensing Board.  

It will be up to the government elected in October to decide if the three-year pilot store is a success, but the department will be tracking sales, working with community groups and the RCMP to gauge reaction.