Somebody forgot to tell Quebec’s liquor retailer the trend toward online business-to-business transactions is dead.

The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) is now buying all its beverages online, using

two separate Web portals. This comes amid recent reports of e-marketplace business being down 95 per cent from two years ago.

The provincially-owned company had been getting most of its products over the Internet for the past several months. After adding beer to the process in February, the SAQ now claims to be the only retailer specializing in alcoholic beverages that gets all its main wares over the Internet.

“”Some people feel that electronic transactions are the way of the future,”” says SAQ president Louis Roquet. “”We feel it’s the way of right now.”” There’s a number of reasons for doing business this way. He says saving money is one reason but not the most important.

“”Yes, we will be saving money, but we will also be saving a lot of time and double-handling of information,”” he says, adding he doesn’t know how much money will be saved.

Shipments can now be tracked throughout their journey by logging on to one of the portals. As well, information about shipment delays or changes in price and quantity can be left and seen by either party.

A basic Internet connection is all that’s needed of the SAQ’s 2,000 suppliers to participate in this, and Roquet says he hasn’t lost any of them since making the switch.

“”Anybody with a teenager has access to our system, because anyone with a teenager has a Web connection.””

There were concerns from some of the suppliers about the security of their transactions. Roquet says such fears were quenched by the portals’ WebTrust certifications, indicating the highest standard in online security.

And some worried the process would get too complicated, but the SAQ set up 24-hour assistance to get over any technical difficulties that might come about. Roquet says there have been very few.

Of the portals used, one is a public site operated by Global Wine & Spirits, a two-year-old Montreal-based firm the SAQ has partial ownership in. The Quebec alcohol retailer also conducts transactions on a private portal, which Global set up.

“”The (Global) platform has functions that are not only transactional, but they also allow you to showcase your products, to have descriptive files for each one of your products,”” Roquet says. “”It you don’t need that type of platform — you’re a larger producer … you don’t really feel the need for that kind of an exposure — then what you do is you hook up with our private platform.””

E-marketplaces may have suffered a serious decline over the last few years, but Global may be an example

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