On the 1st of May the Scottish government implemented the Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol. This represents a major intervention in the market place and is this first time a policy like this has been implemented across a national jurisdiction.
Despite being on the table since 2012, the final implementation was actually quite rushed. We have worked very closely with the Scottish government and other key stakeholders to ensure that both retailers and customers were fully aware of MUP and its impact in-store.
Once again retailers have shown a remarkable willingness to adapt to the new regulations, to ensure they are fully compliant and to selling alcohol responsibly. The SGF retailers guide to MUP – produced in partnership with the Scottish government – has been issued to all our members and is also being used by Licensing Standards Officers across Scotland as part of their training and awareness programme.
One month on, the (informal) feedback we are getting from retailers is that the transition has been very smooth. There has been no fall-off in sales. Customers whose preferred products have been impacted by MUP seem to be switching to other products: beer, half bottles of spirits have been mentioned most often but also wine seems to be something customers are switching to.
For c-stores MUP probably has helped to create more of a level playing field in terms of the competitiveness of the beers, wines and spirits category. There are always unintended consequences of policy interventions – in the case of MUP, convenience store retailers might just be in the right place to make the most of them.
Pete Cheema is chief executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation