Over the past 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, the wider use of council policies to restrict the number of new alcohol licences in an area, to a ‘treatment tax’ on all alcohol sales (except in pubs).
What these reports fail to acknowledge is that, overall, alcohol consumption is falling (especially among young people) and there is a decline in binge drinking. There are a number of reasons for this, but they are primarily down to behaviour change supported by industry initiatives such as 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.
Of course, we support the removal of licences from irresponsible operators, but there is no credible evidence to show that more off licences in an area will lead to more alcohol harm and 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 engaging 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.