In his first conference speech as leader, Brown singled out independent retailers when he pledged to tackle underage drinking by revoking the licences of stores which 'repeatedly sell alcohol to those who are underage'.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) labelled the comments as "disappointing" and said there had never been a tougher set of penalties available to police and local authorities to punish retailers who sell to under-18s.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said the only way to solve the problem was to tackle both supply and demand. He added: "It's disappointing that the prime minister's comments give no credit to the vast improvement in our sector's performance in test-purchasing campaigns. Far from being singled out for criticism, shops should be praised for leading the way in promoting the Challenge 21 message and preventing underage purchases."
National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) national president Colin Finch added: "The NFRN will be writing to the prime minister to express our concerns, to suggest possible solutions and to assure Mr Brown that we remain as open as ever, while being determined to stand up and represent NFRN members from the ill-conceived notion that independent retailers are somehow responsible for binge drinking and anti-social behaviour."
l Police were this week given new powers to apply for a fast- track review of a store's alcohol licence if they feel it could be associated with serious crime and disorder. The new laws, which form part of the Violent Crime Reduction Act, also mean councils can intervene to impose immediate extra conditions on the licence pending such a review.