Retailers are putting their stores at risk by cutting back on age-related test purchasing, according to Ed Heaver, director at Serve Legal.

The company’s latest age-related sales testing shows that nearly one in five convenience stores failed an alcohol test purchase carried out by a teenager.

The fail rates were similar for tobacco sales testing, but other age-restricted sales areas performed far worse.

In e-liquids, nearly one in three stores failed to age verify a teenage shopper. One in four stores failed to challenge a teenager for ID when buying knives, showing no substantial change in pass rates since 2009. 

The stagnation of pass rates in most areas compared to last year coincides with convenience retailers carrying out 25% less age-related test purchases than in 2014.

Heaver told Retail Express: “It has been tough on the high street and retailers have been looking at ways to cut costs, but reduced testing should raise a red flag for shop owners.

"Failing a police or trading standards test purchase will have business-threatening consequences that outweigh any potential saving.”

He added that while police authorities and councils had taken a “softly-softly” approach to when their test found stores to be selling knives to under 18s so far, this should change going forward, with severe punishment for those failing to sell bladed objects responsibly.

“A review of penalties for underage knife sales is well overdue and should be part of the Home Office’s new Serious Violence Strategy, with tougher penalties for any retailer not able to demonstrate the requisite due diligence if they fail a local authority or police knife test,” he said. 

Bladed products potentially sold in convenience stores that could land an owner in trouble include scissors, kitchen knives, craft knives and palette knives.

Heaver also called for knives and tobacco to operate under a licensing system similar to the alcohol licensing system, which would “create a consistent approach to age-related sales".

Read more: Why the breathalyser is the newest tool in ensuring licensing compliance