School’s out for the summer, but retailers across the UK are gearing up for a testing holiday period as bored teenagers go in search of alcohol and tobacco.

Surrey Trading Standards team leader Steve Playle said retailers would need to “step up the guard” against underage sales, or face harsh penalties. 

“Exams are over and the holidays have begun, meaning that are more kids are hanging around with nothing to do. Experience has taught us that they are far more inclined to try to access alcohol over the summer than other periods of the year, and we and the police will step up our efforts to prevent this from happening accordingly.” 

Retailers could also expect to see a greater number of test purchasing stings over the coming weeks, making it vital that they had the right staff and systems in place, he added. 

“The retail trade is clearly making great strides in this area, but there is always more to be done. Obviously, a stringent Challenge 25 policy is vital, but the calibre of staff is also key. Retailers simply can’t afford to have someone on the till who is afraid to say boo to a goose. Staff need to be confident asking for ID and making refusals.”

Retailers should take extra care when checking ID, following a rise in the number of convincing fake driving licences in circulation, he warned. 

Jackie Butler of Spar Poole, Dorset, who passed a test purchasing sting last week, said she was braced for a challenging six weeks. “I attended a meeting with Trading Standards and police last week to talk about the problem of youths attempting to purchase alcohol in the summer as it definitely gets worse. Fortunately for us, our staff are more like security guards so nothing gets by.”

Independent retailer Dean Holborn, whose store in Redhill, Surrey, failed a test purchasing sting last summer, said his experience proved that retailers could not afford to let their guard down for a second. “We have till prompts and a Challenge 25 policy, but that’s not enough. Staff need the message constantly drummed into them.

“The kids don’t let up, so we can’t either.”

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