[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca -- Friday Feature 2000-18Fr -- Holiday Gift Stores
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Holiday Gift Stores.

December 22, 2000.

Some of you may know that we write and publish these newsletters from the Vancouver, BC, area. We get a little local with this one, and hope that those of you from other parts of the country appreciate learning something about this part of the country.


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Holiday Gift Stores
By Michael Hora (mike@factscanada.ca)


Yuletide shoppers in British Columbia, take heart. The Liquor Distribution Branch, the people who actually provide liquor stores and vendors around the province with their wares, has taken it upon itself to ease the pain of today's time-challenged shopper. The result: "Holiday Gift Stores".

The stores first appeared about three years ago and are meant to promote ease of access for the Christmas shopper, who often had to leave the comfort of a favourite shopping centre or mall in order to obtain Christmas spirits. And, as with most things associated with the holiday season, the venues are temporary. As Kate Pasieka, communications officer for the LDB says, "They're seasonal."

There are five districts around the province that have benefited from the stores' presence. Locations in the Lower Mainland include Richmond (Richmond Centre), Vancouver (Pacific Centre), and Abbotsford (Seven Oaks Plaza). Vancouver Island has the other two outlets. One is at the Mayfair Shopping Centre in Victoria, and further up-island, Nanaimo sports one in its Woodgrove Centre.

The outlets, by and large, are quite successful. There have been failures though. Last year's was at Oakridge Shopping Centre. While not revealing the amount of product each and every store is expected to get out the door, the LDB did allow that the mall's outlet sales was not meeting expectations. It may have had something to do with the costs associated with the inventory.

A walk through the Richmond store is like a trip to a foreign country. A very expensive foreign country. With brand names that are evocative of sunny Mediterranean climes and cool terraces on a mountainside in France's wine country, comes the prices that their cachet lends them. The hundreds of dollars it will cost one for a bottle of the likes of Piper-Heidsieck, Laurent-Perrier, and Veuve Cliquot Porsa is something most can't afford.

Store employees, also at the Richmond outlet, say that their clientele is largely foreign with Americans predominating. Carol Johnston, a 22-year LCB (Liquor Control Board) employee, deals with the Americans every day as well as the domestic customers. "I talk to the Americans and they say that the low Canadian dollar makes this an attractive deal," she said.

There are some affordable brands stocked though. Bacardi has its familiar line-up of rums and Jackson-Triggs offers a few of its vintages. Johnston says they sell well. But it's what you don't see that is indicative of the type of consumer the outlet is trying to capture. There is no Captain Morgan, no Beefeater, and certainly not a trace of any Wiser products. These have been supplanted by the aforementioned Bacardi, Sapphire and Crown Royal.

Working in a store that is dressed up like the outside of a Christmas present keeps the employees highly entertained. Some people's reactions to the store, in a mall that has never sold liquor in its 30-plus years of existence, are writ large on their faces. The looks the place gets range from the incredulous, "Well, I'll be..." to a sort of, "Did I really see that or am I hallucinating?" look.

Says Johnston; "I have had people walk by, look, then back full up for another look. Then they come in and start to talk. Nobody seems to think the place is a bad idea."

Shauna Hudson is one such customer. The appearance of the store had her shocked though she did come in to shop. "I was surprised," she admitted. "Not necessarily 'bad' surprised, just surprised."

The only bad thing that both customers and staff had to say about the experiment was that it was soon to end. The stores are slated for closure at the end of December.

"I will have to go back to the retail outlet I normally work at," said Johnston. "This has been a treat for me."

And, as Kate Pasieka said, that too is seasonal.


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== PREVIEW ==

This Sunday, which happens to be Christmas eve, I profile (of all people) Santa Claus, give you another festive recipe, tell you about some of the history of Christmas, give you a glimpse of Christmas in other countries, and relate some Christmas stories from some of our readers. I'll also tell you the names of our latest contest winners. We have our first international winner this time.


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Three days left until Christmas. Craig says this is late today because he had to finish his Christmas shopping. He reports success. I hope that you are too.


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