Chris Mitchener of Licensing Solutions warns that hot weather can get you into hot water

Depending on the location and profile of your shop, the summer holiday season can add turnover to your business (or it can lose you some), but it is generally agreed that with soft drinks, snacks and ice cream sales climbing, either way margins grow.

But so, too, can the pitfalls of underage sales of alcohol and tobacco.

The two principal reasons for this are that the youngsters usually in school uniform no longer wear it for six or so weeks and gain confidence in their individual image. So the 15- or 16-year- old girl in school slacks or skirt suddenly passes for 18 or 19 without the school influence, as does the lad no longer wearing his school tie but now in street civvies.

The second reason is that there are more youngsters about for longer during the day and evenings, who have finished exams and possibly school as well, or are starting college in the autumn term. Life is a new adventure and a potential nightmare for retailers selling age-restricted products.

This is why your Challenge 21 or 25 policy is so important. If you have not given staff refresher training recently, now is the time to do it and keep reminding and talking to your staff about it every day. Check that your Challenge signage is clearly displayed or replaced if necessary. Display signage in the staff area or store room and even on the inside of the toilet door.

Do an epos check and ensure that every alcohol and tobacco line flags on the till prompt you will be staggered at how many may have slipped through the net. It only takes one and we all know sod’s law says it will be the one that is tested.

You have to be vigilant. Observe staff serving customers, ensuring that there is eye contact and involvement with each customer transaction from the outset, and pass on this awareness to your staff. If you can do CCTV checks so that you can monitor sales of alcohol and tobacco and flag up good and bad practice to your staff, so much the better.

It may all seem a bit much, but you need to come out of the holidays with higher sales and higher margins and your licence intact not facing a review in the autumn with potential suspension or even loss of your licence for alcohol, or prosecution for selling tobacco underage.

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