Imposing a freeze on the prices of bottles of wine and spirits sold at the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) would, in the current context, be an "irresponsible" gesture, judges its CEO Catherine Dagenais.
"It's not as if the customer was no longer able to buy anything at the SAQ, she replied yesterday, on the sidelines of a conference of the Canadian Club of Montreal. A customer who has a more limited budget can always buy a cheaper product. »
Two weeks ago, Quebec Solidarity MP Ruba Ghazal demanded that the state-owned company waive the price increases announced on more than 2,500 of its products. This request, which was ignored, shortly followed the announcement of payments of $9 million in bonuses to senior executives of the SAQ.
The state needs it
For the one who has been running the state monopoly for almost four years, the application of such a proposal would be a management error.
“If I pay more and freeze my prices, at the end of the year my dividend — what I give back to the state — is going to be less. [However], we know that the state needs funds from the SAQ, and all of this is reinvested in Quebec. I don't think it would be responsible to do so. »
About $40M per week
For the year 2020-2021, the Société des alcools du Québec has actually paid nearly two billion dollars into the coffers of the Quebec state.
It is the equivalent, roughly, of 40 million dollars per week which is thus given to the government, thanks to its activities in the wine and spirits trade.
Lots of choice
The president and CEO points out that with 15,000 products on her shelves, the choice offered to SAQ customers is great.
"If it's hard for a customer to buy a $15 bottle, they can buy a $13 or $12 bottle. He has a choice. »
Decision "à la Amazon"
Moreover, despite the criticisms formulated by the CSN, Ms. Dagenais reiterates her intention to pursue her plans to expand and automate her distribution center. An "Amazon-style" decision that could, according to the union, lead to job losses among SAQ.com workers.
Refusing to admit the slightest aspiration to become a "Quebec Amazon of alcohol", the boss of the SAQ nevertheless admitted to being inspired by "best practices" in terms of distribution. And this, not without pointing out – in an admiring tone – in passing, that the model developed by Amazon had enabled the American company to monopolize almost half of the online ordering market on the planet.