Off licences and convenience stores are leading the retail sector with the biggest increases in performance in asking for IDs when a potential underage customer attempts to buy alcohol.

Serve Legal, a company which is employed by retail chains and symbol groups to carry out test purchases, carried out 10,480 site visits with 18- and 19-year-old testers during the first six months of the year. To pass the test, store staff must ask the tester for approved proof of age.

Convenience stores saw their pass rate jump to 70%, against 65% in 2008, while off licences achieved a pass rate of 66%, compared to 55% in 2008. 

The pass rate for supermarkets during the same period improved just one percentage point to 70%.

The South of England (68% pass rate) performed better than the North (64%) while the best performing region was Scotland (pass rate 75%, up from 68% in 2008).

Worst performing regions were Northern Ireland (57% / 56%), the North West England (63% / 62%) and the Midlands (63% / 66%).

The latest results reveal that retailers are getting better at stopping underage sales, says Serve Legal director Charlie Mowat, but that there is still scope for further improvement.

“The biggest driver for underage drinkers when it comes buying alcohol is whether or not they think they’ll be served. That’s why it’s important retailers send out a strong message of zero tolerance,” he said.

The results also revealed that underage drinkers were more likely to be successful in purchasing alcohol on a Sunday than any other day of the week.