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FINALLY the Government has gotten round to consulting on how to curb alcohol abuse in England and Wales, and needless to say, the issues at stake are pretty complex. (You can respond to the consultation here, by the way). In short, if all the proposals are passed, it will stop supermarkets selling booze at knocked down prices – offering ludicrous multi-buys and cheap liquor in order to pull in customers.
So far so good for small shops – this would level the playing field between c-stores and the superstores, right?
Right. But it’s not quite that simple – the proposals to ban multibuys could make life hell for small shops by making it illegal to sell single units at different prices to multi-packs. In Scotland, where this rule is already in place, it has caused confusion and inconvenience for retailers, and in many shops all single booze tins have been stripped from the shelves in order to maintain prices on the four and six-packs. This leaves drinkers with no option but to buy a four-pack, rather than a single tin of lager – hardly encouraging a slow-down in booze consumption.
To make matters trickier still, the minimum alcohol price per unit proposed for England is 45p, but in Scotland it is 50p. Ashok Shukla, of Parkstone Lane Stores in Poole, told bR: “Scottish people are going to be worried unless the minimum price is the same on both sides of the border. There will be a lot of smuggling at border towns.”
On top of this, the consultation proposes to alter licensing conditions – at a time when licence applications are being scrutinized ever more closely.
So there’s a genuine mix of good and troubling news. The best thing we can do as an industry is make time to read the consultation and respond to it, telling the Home Office what the proposals will mean in practise. For all the politicians, researchers and health experts pitching in on the debate, the people who know best how these proposals will actually affect the way consumers buy their booze are retailers.
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