In a March 16 speech to Chamber members, Alain Brunet, President and CEO of the SAQ, provided a status report on the government corporation and outlined the challenges that lie ahead. Four major themes emerged from his presentation.
A thriving government corporation
Mr. Brunet took the opportunity of the forum to outline the government corporation’s progress in recent years. Between 2007 and 2017, its sales have practically doubled, reaching a growth rate of 46%. In comparison, for the same period, retail trade grew 37% in Québec. Over $900 million in economic benefits and $1 billion in dividends are evidence of the retailer’s good financial health.
According to the President and CEO, this significant growth is due to a number of factors: careful management, international partnerships, specific agreements with Québec producers, well-developed expertise, a spirit of continuous innovation, an ongoing shift to the use of technology, a diversified product offer and personalized customer service.
"We aim for excellence, both in terms of the customer experience and operations, finance and security. Everyone was pulling together, and that contributed to our success." »"
A tailored customer experience
Offering a flawless experience that goes beyond a simple store visit is an ongoing challenge for the SAQ and each of its 7,000 employees, Mr. Brunet said. To maintain this level of service, constant adaptation to the ever-changing needs and requests of clients is required. As a result, major changes have been made over the years, both with respect to logistics and information systems and in terms of motivating and training employees.
New technologies are central to this evolution. Gathering big data on customer tastes and preferences through the Inspire card, creating virtual stores, offering access to the mobile app and developing a multifunctional website are just a few examples of technologies the SAQ has deployed.
"We are agents of change. We keep questioning ourselves to satisfy our clients."
The importance of social responsibility
For the SAQ, sharing is the best way of contributing to the development of society. This is why it is actively involved in the community.
"Social responsibility is what distinguishes us. It provides a balance between the customer experience and shareholder satisfaction."
The balance between commercial and social responsibilities is achieved in part through public awareness about responsible drinking. Through Éduc’alcool (which the SAQ created in 1989), the retailer keeps trying to make the public aware of the risks of drinking too much and the importance of respecting the legal drinking age.
The retailer is also very sensitive to the fight against poverty. Through its donation and sponsorship program, every year the SAQ gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to Food Banks of Quebec and to 400 charitable organizations and events. The most recent campaign raised $734,919 for Food Banks of Quebec.
"We want to share Québec products, but we also want to support the less fortunate"
Selling legal cannabis
In November 2017, the government corporation was mandated to sell legal cannabis. In his speech before the Chamber, the President and CEO announced that the future subsidiary of the SAQ, the Société québécoise du cannabis, will open 20 stores to kick off the legal sale of cannabis.
"In November, we put in place a development strategy so we will be ready as soon as the law comes into effect. We are preparing, step by step and responsibly."
For details to be disclosed later about the future Société québécoise du cannabis and its operations, Michel Leblanc invited Mr. Brunet to come back to speak before the CCMM when the law to legalize cannabis comes into effect.