The convenience sector is on the front line when it comes to upholding the law on age-restricted sales, and make no mistake, this is the first and most important part of responsible retailing. The law on the sale of alcohol, tobacco, vapes, lottery and scratchcards is very clear, and I’m very proud of our record in preventing children accessing these products.
At the centre of an effective responsible retailing policy is a Challenge25 policy. It’s not that long ago that there was controversy over whether the challenge age should be set at 21 or 25, and that the whole idea of adding some leeway to make those decisions on who to serve was the subject of some debate. I’m very pleased that we’ve now established Challenge25 as standard, and that it exists not just as posters and in-store signage but as training for colleagues and the norm that underpins every sale. We can’t rest on our laurels - one mistake can really damage your business – but we should start by thanking the hundreds of thousands of retailers and colleagues who implement this policy every single day.
Most recently we have (rightly) seen more focus on the sale of vapes. Our campaigning activity on vapes over the summer was very well received by retailers, and I think we made it clear that the vast majority of convenience stores are not the ones causing the problem when it comes to underage access to these products. Use our materials and keep this at the front of your minds.
To me, responsible retailing isn’t just about product sales governed by law, it’s also about where the retailer has to make decisions based on the needs and concerns of the local community. I’m even more bullish about the unique role that our sector plays in having a responsible long-term approach. This could be through partnerships with schools to promote healthier products and more adoption of fruit and veg, reducing plastic usage in store (one recent example of which was the sector’s widespread adoption of voluntary bag charging before the Government caught up), or taking extra steps to make it easier for customers to recycle vapes in store on a voluntary basis. We see this kind of activity in action every day in stores across the country.
In recent years there has been a renewed focus on product regulation within Government, with the most notable example being the HFSS rules that have just passed a year of being in place, and attention turning in the near future to the disposable vaping market. With so much attention on the products that convenience stores sell, it’s essential that we continue to promote our credentials as responsible retailers and not just talk about our enforcement of the law, but as custodians of local communities.