Local shops: good at selling problem categories!

In yesterday’s FT John Gapper reviews the setbacks to David Cameron’s attempts to curb binge drinking and Michael Bloomberg’s attempts to curb obesity, with his ban on large servings of soft drinks being overturned by the courts.

Mr Gapper argues that governments should adopt the lightest measures possible to address such social ills and draws the comparison with tobacco, where rumours are swirling that Mr Cameron may be planning to introduce plain packaging.

Convenience stores are in the uncomfortable position of selling all three products, mostly responsibly. They account for a big proportion of sales and are important profit centres. Society (and politicians) also fail to see the great benefit of a responsible local supply chain.

cigs-alc-fizzyFor c-stores in poorer communities the threat of political action is much greater and Mr Gapper addresses this. What he does not address is where poor shoppers will go to buy their alcohol, sugary drinks and tobacco when the politicians impose forceful solutions. Mr Gapper says that regressive income taxes “prevent people” from consumption that is bad for them and society.

What local retailers have to do is to tell their MPs that regressive income taxes, display bans and plain packaging do not necessarily prevent consumption. They actually drive it underground and into the hands of criminals.

Campaigning Lancashire Evening Post journalist Stephanie Hall put the issue succinctly to Retail Newsagent: “Criminals have no qualms about selling [tobacco] to children by the stick and they are getting hooked.”

The chilling thing about Mr Gapper’s article is that he argues that societies “should try to limit alcoholism and obesity, as they have cracked down on tobacco use” and he promises that as “with tobacco proscriptions they will probably be accepted in the end.”

What local shops have to do is to show politicians how responsibly run independent shops are part of the solution. A reliable supply chain in local communities that keeps product available so the black market does not win.


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