Bestway is to participate in the independent convenience industry’s first trial of digital age verification for alcohol and tobacco purchases.

The wholesaler has partnered with facial recognition firm Innovative Technology (ITL) for the trial across three stores in Leeds. Each store participating in the trial will have specialised cameras by the till. The cameras analyse the features of a customer’s face to establish their age. The staff member at the till will then receive a notification of whether to ask the customer for ID.

The trial will run until May in Bargain Booze Otley, Wine Rack Roundhay and Tippl Garforth. Bestway retail director Mike Hollis said: “We’re proud to be pioneering the use of age verification technology in our drinks led specialist stores.

“Staff abuse is rife in the convenience channel, with the Association of Convenience Stores’ 2021 Crime Report highlighting that there were over a million incidents of verbal abuse and about 40,000 incidents of violence against people working in convenience stores in the past year alone.

“We surveyed staff in our three participating stores and the responses received showed that staff abuse, particularly when it comes to the refusal to sell alcohol, is a significant issue. All participants agreed that using technology could reduce staff abuse and we believe that using [the technology] will act as a deterrent when it comes to staff abuse. It will also give retailers peace of mind and ensure that they avoid prosecutions, fines, or losing their license for the miss-sale of alcohol or tobacco products.”