A study by Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) says that cashiers face regular abuse and violence when refusing sales, and argues that they have played an important role in the reduction in failed test purchases from about 50% to 20% in the past three years.
The convenience sector is praised in the report with the author, Dr Gillian Hopkinson, noting that knowledge of sales laws and policies in superstores are more limited in scope than in other stores. Across all outlets, the Challenge 21 policy is seen as positive by cashiers and store managers.
The report, which interviewed shop assistants in a range of store formats in the Midlands and the North West, also found that cashiers perceive themselves as being labelled 'the problem' by communities and authorities. This, however, is in contrast to their perception of themselves as a vital part of the solution to the problem of underage drinking.
The majority believed the response of police to test purchase failures is out of proportion in comparison to 'weak and ineffective' responses to store crime. There was also strong support for a universal government ID scheme.
Dr Hopkinson called for police and trading standards to carry out more training with shop staff and for public awareness campaigns to create a culture where ID checking is accepted as the norm.
West Midlands retailer Andrew Newton owns a Nisa Local store in Brierley Hill. He agreed that police and Trading Standards should be doing more to help train staff and said: "It can be hard for staff who often feel intimidated if they refuse a sale. I'd like to see police and Trading Standards helping to train as well as just enforcing the law."