The Government’s crackdown on illicit alcohol has led to instant sales rises – prompting calls for more to be done to combat other illegal products, such as tobacco.
Retailers and wholesalers have reported a spike in sales following April’s introduction of the new Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS).
One leading wholesaler reported around an 8% uplift in alcohol sales, a rise in footfall and an influx of new customers at its depot.
“We’re seeing a positive impact on basket spend,” said Marcus Singh, managing director at Hyperama Wholesale in Nottingham.
“Undoubtedly, it means some retailers are not using other wholesalers [who aren’t registered].
“We’re seeing an increase in footfall too, which would imply that new customers are coming in. The increases are in the higher single digits.”
James Hall, Bestway group director of symbol, added: “We’ve already seen some effect – we can see our wine sales growing. I think that’s growth away from the dark market.”
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors said it had heard other stories of increased sales from across its membership. “AWRS is having a positive effect and saving millions in taxpayers’ money as duty cheats are forced out of the market,” said chief executive James Bielby.
Retailers that Retail Express spoke to one month after the introduction of the AWRS said they’d also seen evidence of change.
“There’s always a lot of negativity around new legislation, but the AWRS has been a real positive,” said Raj Aggarwal, who runs Spar stores in Leicester and Sheffield.
“We sell a lot of beers in our Sheffield shop that are priced at £2.50, but we had stores near us selling them for £1.50. People were leaving our store and going there.
“But now the AWRS has got rid of all those white van men and dodgy cash & carries and I’ve seen customers coming back to us.”
The scheme has led to calls for tighter tobacco regulation to help counteract the illicit tobacco trade.
Singh said cigarette and tobacco sales were falling at Hyperama Wholesale, which could be down to plain packaging and increased counterfeit trade.
“Could licensing be used to regulate tobacco sales? Why not,” he added.
Retailer Sam Samra, of Samra Supermarket in Smethwick, said: “Our alcohol sales have gradually strengthened but our cigarette sales are flat. Licensing tobacco sales is a good idea.”