Inventory Management | The SAQ increases its penalties for private import agents

A wine importer has criticized the SAQ for acting at the expense of private import agents affected by COVID-19-related restrictions in its inventory management. The state-owned company’s private import warehouse, which was overcrowded at the end of April, is still in a “critical” situation.

Posted at 7:00 am

Frederik Xavier Duhamel

Frederik Xavier Duhamel
The press

Early May, The press revealed that thousands of privately imported products were at risk of being confiscated⁠1 on June 18 for being stored too long at the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) premises. The state-owned company then explained that the ongoing closure of restaurants and bars was the cause of this “extraordinary” situation.

In a May 17 newsletter, the SAQ points out that “unfortunately, stock levels are still very high.”

However, Philip Morisset, founder of the wine import agency Origines, accuses the SAQ of giving preferential treatment to its branches, applying storage times at inconvenient times and multiplying the level of penalties that can be imposed on importers.

Crown Corporation denies, mitigates, or admits to some of these complaints via email. SAQ’s director of sourcing management and merchandising, Josée Dumas, declined several interview requests The press without giving reasons.

According to Mr Morisset, the SAQ “would have favored the collection, transport and processing of products intended for shops upon arrival, to the detriment of private orders, which would have led to a much longer immobilisation of agents”, and this from the summer 2021

“Orders are processed chronologically,” says spokeswoman Clémence Beaulieu Gendron. The SAQ says it “containers that [lui] allow you to set up scheduled promotions, avoid stock shortages and send the most requested products to stores or restaurants.

Explosion in delivery times

Pierre Birlichi, spokesman for Raspipav, an association of around 50 private import agencies, including Origines, says that the state-owned company preferred its branches “particularly because the restaurants were closed”, which he considers “understandable”. “Once the restaurants were open, I heard more about prioritization,” he adds.

But average delivery times have dropped from 4-5 weeks to 8-12 weeks due to “supply chain disruptions,” says Beaulieu Gendron.

MM. Birlichi and Morisset both regret these additional delays which have resulted in missing the “marketing windows” of certain products such as Holidays.

Mr Morisset is also angry that Crown Corporation did not suspend its storage hours during the recent closure of bars and restaurants last winter. She had stopped meters earlier during the pandemic to help agents struggling with back-to-back waves of shutdowns to sell.

“The counters started again on September 12, 2020. On the other hand, we have extended the retention period according to the number of weeks that the stricter hygiene measures have lasted, respected from the last days of December 2021 and extended at the beginning of the year 2022”, however, specifies the spokesman.

Triple storage fees

In fact, storage costs have increased dramatically in September 2021, which Mr Morisset strongly denounces. “Fees went from $1.10 to $3.95 at 151e day and from $2.20 to $6.95 at 181e day”, confirms Mme Beaulieu Gendron. But these have not yet been settled, she adds.

“Of course, as the spokesman for an importers’ association, I don’t like that,” says Mr. Birlichi. But he’s “not overly concerned” about the impact of those increases on his members.

The state-owned company was not able to provide the number of cases and products that could still be seized as of June 18 in time for the publication of this text. At the beginning of May, 27,000 cases were on their way to reaching the maximum retention period of 210 days by that date, accounting for deadline breaks.

The storage situation “will be reassessed over the summer,” SAQ said in its May 17 newsletter. “In the event that it is still critical, other measures could be taken. »

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