The story that Paul Edwards told Retail Express this week, about a man breaking down at the till when asked by staff about his problems with alcohol, really touched me.
Paul is part of a new ‘Custodian’ scheme in his local area, where shopkeepers commit to caring for those most vulnerable in their communities.
It’s one thing to restrict access and take high-strength products off the shelves, but real community retailing involves actively trying to help those in your community who need it.
Being a great alcohol retailer is as much about your range as it is your responsibility to the community
Paul’s story came at the same time as medical experts have said that plans to introduce minimum pricing in Scotland will see those heavy drinkers most dependent on cheap alcohol switching to stronger drinks, cutting back on food to afford alcohol, or looking to steal to fund their habit.
In a statement supplied to The Scotsman, a representative from Alcohol Focus Scotland said that alcohol treatment should remain the key priority – decrying the 22% cut in funding being implemented across alcohol and drug services throughout Scotland.
Prohibition is one thing, but real help is another entirely.
At the same time, a group of eight alcohol suppliers, including Diageo and Pernod Ricard, have come together to form the Alcohol Information Partnership. This group says that it is here to “bring balance back to the debate” and talks about alcohol as part of a balanced lifestyle and drinking in moderation.
The crucial thing, according to director general Dave Roberts, is that binge and underage drinking are declining and the “vast majority” of people enjoy a drink responsibly.
Some great work has been done across the industry, and statistics from the Office of National Statistics back this up – underage hospital admissions are down by up to 54% in certain areas, and there are fewer deaths year on year from alcohol misuse.
Being a great alcohol retailer is as much about your range as it is your responsibility to the community. It isn’t easy, but it reflects well on you, and your store.