Last month Tesco called on the government to reduce alcohol abuse by introducing new legislation to ban the sale of cut-price alcohol, but said competition law prevents retailers acting together on pricing.
Asda responded with its own package of measures to tackle the problems, saying it would remove shot-sized alcopops from its shelves and halt alcohol sales between 12pm and 6am in its town centre stores. It also said it would consider private prosecution of under-18s who try to buy alcohol.
Asda's moves have been dismissed as "toothless" by many independent and symbol group retailers. "The plans are not as hard-hitting as they first seem," said Bob Gibson, who owns a store in Basingstoke, Hampshire. "Alcopops are not selling as well as they used to, so banning these won't have a huge impact.
"The majority of Asda's supermarkets are out of town, which means that plans to prohibit the sale of alcohol in town centres after 12pm will not have much bite either," he added.
Brian Straiton, operations director of Scottish Spar chain Botterills, which has its own test purchasing scheme and a Challenge 25 policy in all its stores, maintains that a minimum price for alcohol will not solve the issue.
"This is a cultural problem, not a pricing one," he said. "What we need is not more legislation but for the government to tackle the roots of the problem, which are a lack of education among young people and poor parenting."
Matthew Hughes, joint managing director of Bargain Booze, also hit out at the supermarkets' measure. "Introducing a minimum price for alcohol is not in the best interest of the majority of responsible consumers who enjoy alcohol in moderation," he said.