It can be summed up by one word: Revolution.

On June 6, 2012, the House of Commons unanimously voted in favor of Bill C-311. The private member’s bill was brought to the House of Commons by Dan Albas, Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. The end result is that it will now be legal for individuals to buy wines for personal consumption in one province and bring them to another. Dan Albas also provided an interesting take on the next steps for the Bill.

If this seems like the ultimate in common sense, you’re not alone in feeling that. The only people we have talked to that have ever resisted this bill have been Provincial liquor monopolies (LCBO, SAQ) or Provincial liquor control boards (AGLC, BC Liquor Control Board).

How did we get here? The previous law forbade individuals from bringing any type of liquor (including wine and beer) into another province. Only liquor control boards of each province and certain licensed bodies – such as distilleries – were allowed to import alcohol. Most of the act dated back to the anti-liquor laws of the 1920s prohibition era.

We have spoken directly with Federal Government officials and they are extremely keen to see the bill passed as it will help to shore up what has been a fragmented industry and potentially allow for more attractive economies of scale. The Federal Government also sees it as an important step towards exporting more Canadian wine. If Canada can’t cultivate our own domestic market cost effectively, how will Canadian wineries be able to compete internationally?

The actual text of the bill adds that the following is allowed:

(h) the importation of wine from a province by an individual, if the individual brings the wine or causes it to be brought into another province, in quantities and as permitted by the laws of the latter province, for his or her personal consumption, and not for resale or other commercial use.

There are a couple of interesting points here:

  • It does not apply only to 100% Canadian wine, which could have negatively impacted the Bill’s ability to pass as it would have been giving an “unfair” advantage to Canadian product and could have potentially spawned international trade issues. This allows wine clubs or internet retailers the ability to ship their international product between provinces. This means that successful wine clubs like WineCollective.ca, and flash sale sites featuring top-end product like Tannic.ca, can sell to Canada’s entire population.
  • The statement “causes it to be brought into another province” explicitly allows ecommerce. Therefore, wineries can both sell wine to people who visit their tasting rooms and want to transport wine back in their cars, but can also follow-up with those visitors after they go home and ship wine directly to them via ecommerce.
  • The statement “personal consumption” is likely the only point which needs further clarification. What is personal consumption? One case per month? Per year? It will be up to the provinces to decide and that may take time. We may well see provincial monopolies playing games to keep the importation of wine difficult for average consumers. However, once Bill C-311 passes through the Senate (should be within a couple of weeks) the provinces will need to set their personal consumption rules, as they won’t have any substantial recourse.

What’s the bottom line? Canadian wineries can now legally sell to 100% of the Canadian population. Obviously the chance that 100% of the Canadian population would ever travel to a given winery’s tasting room (if they have one) is zero, so online direct- to-consumer sales really is the major revolution here.

For example, no longer will BC wineries be limited to selling and shipping wine to 4.6 million people. Overnight they increased their addressable market to 34.8 million people. The only way to reach those new customers at a reasonable cost is via online sales.

Canadian wineries have always been innovative and wanted to engage in ecommerce, but often their addressable market was too small to justify the needed investment in technology. Now that they have an available market of 35 million people (similar to that of California and all their wineries), every single Canadian winery should be looking for the most advanced ecommerce solution available.

That solution is readily available.

BlackSquare has been successfully selling our core product – Blackboxx wine club and e-commerce application in Canada and internationally. Blackboxx is the proprietary application we custom-built for the wine and spirits industry and now powers a number of winery and retail store wine clubs globally.

Blackboxx harnesses the latest Internet technologies to create the most powerful wine club and ecommerce platform available today. Available to wineries and retail stores worldwide, Blackboxx is web-based, turn-key, simple to set up and easy to use.

Along with powerful administrative functions and business intelligence on the back end, Blackboxx’s front end delivers a rich social network and marketing to your best customers. Uniquely tailored for the needs of wine clubs, Blackboxx is guaranteed to enable you to reduce administration time, cost and complexity while helping you profitably sell and deliver more wine directly to consumers.

Canadian wineries now need to capitalize on the sales revolution that Bll C-311 has enabled – and Blackboxx is just the tool to help them do it.