Independent retailers have dismissed the government’s aim to reduce binge drinking through minimum pricing, although opinion is divided over its potential to level the playing field between small stores and supermarkets.
The government is consulting on proposals for a minimum alcohol unit price of 45p, which would raise a 750ml bottle of wine with an ABV of 13% to a minimum price of £4.40. It has also proposed a ban on multi-buy promotions.
Chris Mitchener of Swan Street Stores, Kingsclere, Hampshire, said there was no evidence the plans would stop binge drinking. “Instead it will now impact my customers who will pay a premium because the government is too frightened or foolish to address the issues properly,” he added.
Saki Ghafoor of Nisa Gateshead agreed that it would result in shoppers paying higher prices rather than stopping binge drinking. “I’m also concerned about the impact on bootlegging and the rise in people making more trips across the channel to buy cheaper booze,” he added.
He rejected claims that minimum pricing would level the playing field with the supermarkets as the mults would “just find another way of promoting their alcohol”.
Chris agreed: “The industry supports the supermarkets over the small stores, so if there is a way around maintaining volume through the large stores it is in the suppliers’ interest to find it, and they will.”
But Arjan Mehr, of Londis Bracknell, Berkshire, welcomed the proposals. “We have suffered deflation in this industry for years, to the point where beer is cheaper than water. The multiples in turn have wiped any value left in this business, so a bit of engineered inflation will help redress that position,” he said.
Other proposals include a review of the mandatory licensing conditions, a new health-related objective for licensing, and cutting red tape for responsible businesses.
The consultation closes on February 6, 2013.
“It won’t tackle binge drinking, it’ll just put prices up for lower-end users. As a c-store retailer it won’t make much difference as we have a competitive alcohol offering with Nisa. Much depends on what manufacturers do, and I fear they will put prices up.”
Nisa Village Stores, Mickleton, Gloucestershire
“For me, a responsible retailer, this seems unnecessary legislation which will not tackle the true problem, which is antisocial behaviour and underage drinking.”
North East Convenience Stores
“A minimum unit price for alcohol would create a fair playing field for smaller retailers, but would also be an incentive for smugglers.”
Federation of Wholesale Distributors