Over the last couple of weeks, a number of reports have surfaced on the need to reduce the amount of alcohol we are consuming as a population.
Recommendations to tackle the problem range from health warnings on alcohol labels, to the wider use of council wide policies to restrict the number of new alcohol licences in an area, to a ‘treatment tax’ on all alcohol sales (except in pubs). The reports all have one common theme however – they all contain wish lists of heavy handed interventions which will have a negative impact on local shops.
The truth about these reports is that they refuse to acknowledge that overall, alcohol consumption is falling (especially among young people) and there is a decline in binge drinking in the UK.
There are a number of reasons for this, but they are primarily down to behaviour change supported by industry initiatives like Community Alcohol Partnerships and city centre management schemes, not cumbersome Government policy interventions.
One particularly concerning recommendation from the manifesto document published by the All Party Group on Alcohol Misuse focuses on restricting the number of alcohol licences. These so-called ‘cumulative impact policies’ introduce artificial controls aimed at preventing new shops setting up and increasing the hurdles for existing stores that want to make changes to their existing licence.
We strongly oppose this whole policy concept because they will stop investment by responsible entrepreneurs who should be able to earn the right to sell alcohol by demonstrating high standards.
Of course, we support the removal of licences from irresponsible operators, but there is simply no credible evidence to show that more off licences in an area will lead to more alcohol harm.
We will continue to resist pressure for this policy to be more widely adopted.
However, as a community retailer you need to prepare for this type of policy by meeting the highest standards in responsible retailing, and also making the effort to engage with the local agencies (council, police, trading standards) that influence alcohol licensing decisions.
Make sure they understand that your business is not one they should target.