Selling alcohol… in Scotland

Alcohol is a big category for my business, but it is the most difficult to manage. My store is in Scotland so we operate under the Alcohol etc. (Scotland)  Act 2010. The Act, which covers the pricing and promotion of alcohol, brought in both the idea of minimum pricing and the mandatory condition for licensee’s to operate a Challenge 25 policy.

The background to the Scottish Parliament implementing this legislation is the perceived alcohol problem in the country.

I see the consequences of high alcohol consumption in my community everyday and it is my responsibility as a business to act responsibly when we make a sale. I do this by ensuring that all our staff are trained to a high level and we have used the Challenge 25 policy since its launch in 2009. We also found a guide by the Scottish Grocery Federation and Scottish Wholesale Association very helpful in understanding just what we are allowed to do under the Act.

One of the biggest challenges that we face on a regular basis is to deal with customers who are drunk. One obligation of holding a alcohol licence is to not sell more intoxicating liquor to someone who is already intoxicated, and this is an area that thorough staff training ensures we are always responsible. We have rules set for our staff to help them tell if it is appropriate to serve a customer and we also invest over £150 a year on alcohol awareness leaflets that we make available to our customers.

The new alcohol regime in Scotland means that we are restricted in how we promote products in the category and how we think about selling and advertising it. These are some of the changes:

Any price changes we make must now stand for at least 3 days.

Alcohol can only be displayed in our defined display area.

For products that we price singly we can not under take multipack offers that are at a different per can/bottle cost.

There are restrictions on how promotional signs, posters and leaflets can be used.


Although the Act has further demonised alcohol it has not stopped the problem. Despite one of it’s main points was to put a constraint on irresponsible pricing, the way the Act has been drafted means there are still offers such as 12 cans for £7.00 available – particularly at supermarkets. While I was writing this the Scottish Government announced that they will be introducing further minimum pricing with a unit of alcohol to cost at least 50p. I wonder if this will come with more unintended consequences.



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