Licensed stores are being advised to make sure staff are fully briefed on their legal responsibilities when selling alcohol, as retailers report a surge in test purchasing activity.
Hampshire retailer and licensing expert Mitchener said he had received a large number of calls from retailers regarding test purchases in recent weeks. He said: "Local authorities are intelligence-led and when there are longer evenings, people are more likely to notice underage drinkers and complain, leading to more tests."
Chris advises retailers to talk to staff every day about alcohol sales. "Constantly remind staff about policy and make sure they are obeying the law by checking CCTV footage," he continued. "I would recommend self-testing in stores. If a store has a Challenge 21 policy, get an 18-year-old to go in and buy alcohol to see if your staff is applying it properly."
Staff face an £80 fine for a failed test and many retailers now treat a failure as a reason to start disciplinary proceedings against employees.
Dave Newman, who runs Westhill Stores in Hastings, East Sussex, tells staff to ask for ID from anyone who looks under 25.
"I keep going on to the staff about age-related sales, reminding them of the store's policy on a regular basis," he said.
"If my store failed a test purchase it would be devastating for my business. It's important they know that not only could I lose my licence but that they could also face prosecution and potentially lose their job."
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman urged all retailers to communicate their policies on age-related sales to staff, and said that while test purchasing was important, too many tests could be detrimental. "I would be concerned about multiple tests in one store in a short period of time as nothing can be achieved with this," he said.
❝ It's very frustrating that retailers aren't told when they pass a test purchase. We could pass a test 10 times and fail on the 11th, but those we passed would be totally disregarded."
Westhill Stores, East Sussex
❝ I have a strict policy on age-related sales - if they have no passport, there is no sale. I've also stopped stocking alcopops and single cans to discourage underage drinkers."
Londis, West Yorkshire
❝ There needs to be proper enforcement of the Licensing Act. Retailers are being held accountable for underage sales, but nothing is being done about proxy purchasing."
Swan Street Stores, Hampshire