Toronto grocers losing money on beer and wine sections, low margins and shoplifting surge blamed
Figure 1: A screen capture of Ghada Alsharif's article on the 'Toronto Star' website (Ballantyne, 2023)

Toronto grocers losing money on beer and wine sections, low margins and shoplifting surge blamed

Grocers' reliance on self-checkout systems, originally implemented to slash labour costs, also causing security challenges

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In this post, I survey and discuss the 2023 news article “Some Toronto area stores are closing their beer and wine sections. Why? Because they’re not making money” by Ghada Alsharif, published in the Toronto Star. This is an academic literature review that provides a chronological overview of the discussion presented with a brief interpretation of the themes and/or arguments. I may or may not agree with the content I am reviewing here and the critical lens of my summations and annotations reflect the research I was doing at the time.



According to the Star, two of Canada’s largest grocers have quietly closed their beer and wine sections in four Greater Toronto Area (GTA) stores. Low sales margins on beer and alcohol, in combination with a surge in shoplifting incidents at retail stores across Canada, are theorized as leading causes for the closures. For grocers like Loblaws and Sobeys, self-checkouts are a liability due to increased theft incidents, particularly involving alcohol and beer sales. Ironically, self-checkouts were initially implemented to save retailers money and reduce labor costs. The situation reflects the complex interplay between technology, employment, and social justice in the retail sector.

Sources used by reporter(s)

The reporter published quotes from two subjects, both grocery retail industry sources:

  • Michelle Wasylyshen, spokesperson, Retail Council of Canada
  • Gary Sands, senior vice-president, Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers

Representatives for grocers Loblaws and Sobeys “did not respond to inquiries asking how many of their stores have stopped selling alcohol and why” (Alsharif, 2023, para 3).


The situation reflects a complex interplay of systemic issues, including the effects of technological displacement and the relationship between inequality and depravation and high crime.

As food prices continue to skyrocket, shoplifting has surged across all grocery store categories, including alcohol, and it’s costing stores billions of dollars, said Michelle Wasylyshen, a spokesperson for the Retail Council of Canada. Ironically, retailers’ increasing reliance on self-checkouts to slash labour costs and fill staffing gaps is making it easier for shoppers to walk out without paying.

Alsharif, 2023, para 4

High-risk products like alcohol are targets of theft because the demand for alcohol remains relatively stable regardless of economic conditions. So, in environments where income inequality is pronounced, individuals may resort to theft as a means to support themselves. A rise in this kind of economic desperation, as monitored through retail losses, is worrisome.

While she did not confirm how many retailers have stopped or will stop selling alcohol, Wasylyshen said some grocery stores will no longer sell beer and wine ‘in part due to high incidents of theft, which has made the current business case for alcohol sales uneconomical.’

Alsharif, 2023, para 5


Alsharif, G. (2023, July 14). Some GTA grocery stores are taking alcohol and beer off their shelves, industry experts say more could follow suit amid a surge in theft and low-profit margins. Toronto Star.