Welsh independent convenience retailers stand to benefit from a new minimum unit pricing bill unveiled this week before the Welsh Parliament.
The Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill would force retailers to charge no less than a set amount per unit of alcohol in a product. For instance, if the minimum charge was 50p per unit, a 440ml can of Stella Artois could be sold for no less than £1.05.
Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans explained: “The Bill I am unveiling today will tackle excessive alcohol consumption by making it an offence for retailers to sell strong alcohol at low prices.”
The impact on convenience store pricing is expected to be minimal as often pricing is already above 50p per unit. However, the law would substantially increasing the cost of large multipacks and promotions more commonly found in supermarkets.
A similar scheme in Scotland has been fought in the courts for five years, giving Scottish retailers plenty of time to ponder the impact. Ferhan Ashiq, owner of Day-Today in East Lothian, said: “The only two products hit by the minimum pricing levels were multi-litre bottles of Strongbow and Frosty Jacks. If anything, the law will give independents a helping hand by prohibiting multiples from undercutting us with low prices and special offers.”
The concept has the support of the NFRN with Paul Baxter previously calling for a UK-wide minimum unit pricing law.
Despite the benefits, a Welsh government consultation from 2016 on the issue also reported fears of cross-border illicit trade spurred on by the price disparity between England and Wales.
It is currently unknown when the bill will come into effect, though it is understood that the Welsh government is rushing to pass law change before the Welsh government loses the ability to pass similar legislation in April 2018. Alongside a deposit return scheme, minimum pricing was one of the Welsh Government’s major policy objectives for 2018.