President & CEO Message
I’m pleased to report we continued to experience strong growth in the 2017-2018 fiscal year as we completed the third year of our Five-Year Strategic Plan. Our focus on providing superb and responsible customer service has been crucial to the success of this plan. It was a busy year that included store renovations, successful festivals and ongoing support of local products. We also initiated the process to take on our new mandate to offer recreational cannabis when it becomes legal in October 2018.
I’m proud to report we have a lot to celebrate this year and our accomplishments were significant. Total sales were $625.7 million, an increase of $13.8 million over the previous fiscal year. This reflects the increased value of the average transaction as well as a small increase in the number of customer transactions. We also enjoyed significant growth in every local category, as customers continue to discover and appreciate the quality of products being made here in Nova Scotia.
We continued our strong investment and support of local industry in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. We have dedicated 27% of our shelf space to Nova Scotia craft beer, local products are extremely popular with Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 again our top-selling 750 ml wine, and Blue Lobster Vodka consistently ranking in the Top 10 of all spirits we sell. We’re sending a clear message to Nova Scotians that we support quality local products through our displays, financial commitment, special events and investment in employee product knowledge.
At the NSLC, we have been evolving to meet our customers’ needs. A key part of that evolution is our retail network strategy which ensures we have the right store in the right place at the right time. We have neighbourhood Express stores designed for customer convenience and opened our first Select stores in smaller communities. These rural stores offer more than 500 top-selling products and have the flexibility to feature products that are made nearby. Our largest and highest volume stores are known as Signature stores, and we opened our first on Portland Street in Dartmouth.
We have further developed our responsible retailing program, transitioning from We ID to Keep the Good Going, the all-encompassing cornerstone of our corporate social responsibility mandate that you’ll read more about in this report. We asked for ID 1.7 million times which resulted in refusal of service nearly 11,000 times. We continue to take a leadership role in corporate social responsibility. Our Keep It Social program promoting responsible consumption at universities was so successful it has been picked up by other liquor jurisdictions in the Atlantic region, a reflection of the confidence that has been placed in this program.
I’m particularly proud that the NSLC was the recipient of this year’s Lieutenant Governor’s Conservation Award. This award recognizes our sponsorship and promotion of the NSLC Adopt A Stream program, which is managed by the Nova Scotia Salmon Association. Volunteer community groups completed 183 projects through the Adopt A Stream program in 2017 that helped improve fish habitat and passage in rivers and streams across Nova Scotia.
Our employees care about their communities and continue to give back to Nova Scotia through fundraising events and donations. We raised just shy of $186,000 for the IWK Health Center, $21,000 for the United Way, and registered charities across the province received almost $40,000 thanks to employees and customers who supported our Cash Can initiative.
The great team in our Distribution Centre shipped out 4.9 million cases of beverage alcohol last year and contributed to the success of special events such as the Festival of Wines and Festival of Whisky. These festivals have grown into sold-out events that thrill and excite thousands of customers thanks to the teamwork exhibited by event organizers, product managers and the Distribution Centre team.
This was a big year as we were appointed by our Shareholder to offer recreational cannabis when it becomes legal this year. We are excited about this new mandate, which recognizes our track record of success as an organization committed to the responsible sale of a controlled product. This is a significant change to our business – the biggest we’ve seen since we opened our doors in 1930.
I was also pleased to introduce our new Board Chair this past year. George McLellan was appointed for a five-year term and brings with him extensive corporate and board experience as well as a working knowledge of the organization from his former role as Deputy Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. I would like to thank Sherry Porter for her dedication as Board Chair for the previous seven years. She was an invaluable resource to the organization, providing strong leadership through a period of tremendous growth.
Our success is thanks to a combination of the exceptional customer service provided by our people, strong relationships with our suppliers, vendors and business partners and strategic and fiscally responsible implementation of creative ideas.
Every day, I see employees across the organization doing their best to provide a responsible and enjoyable shopping experience for our customers. Thank you for your dedication and commitment. Nova Scotians place their trust in you, and you have proven again that you are worthy of that trust. Thank you also to our valued customers for your feedback and support as we work together for continued success. We look forward to the year ahead.