More than one year on from the implementation of the Scottish Alcohol Act, independent retailers’ wine and beer sales have been largely unaffected by the legislation.
Introduced in October 2011 in a bid to curb excessive alcohol consumption, the Act aimed to limit multi-buy deals and restrict in-store advertising.
A number of retailers have stopped selling single cans of beer due to the requirement for individual units to reflect the price of multipacks, although the overall impact on sales has been minimal. John Cuthbertson, who runs a Premier at Dundee University, said: “I don’t sell individual bottles or cans - there’s no advantage, but it hasn’t affected sales as people prefer buying beer in bulk here.”
Sid Ali of Nisa Mintlaw, Aberdeenshire, said: “We took single cans out of business so we can sell multipacks at any price. It has helped us rationalise and tidy up the the fixture, it’s had a positive effect.”
Edinburgh Premier retailer Linda Williams added: “It hasn’t affected us in anyway apart from not selling single cans anymore. But it’s not restricting consumption or drinking habits as the government intended. It’s just a huge administrative cost and headache.”
However, retailers are still selling three bottles of wine for £10 by selling an individual bottle for £3.33. “I used to sell a bottle for £3.99, so it affects my margins a bit, although overall sales are the same,” John said.
Neil Babington of Scott Street Convenience Stores in Galashiels agreed that this strategy had hit margins, but overall sales were up. “The Premier buying team are doing well and I’ve secured a few good deals,” he said.
According to Accolade Wine, wine volume declined by 3.1% in Scotland between July 2011 and July 2012 due to the restrictions on multibuy promotions. But low single bottle prices encouraged new shoppers to trial, thereby increasing wine penetration, the company said.
Ian Mitchell of The Village Stores in East Ayrshire said: “We can’t promote in the front of shop now which has impacted sales, but overall sales are only slightly down.”
But Sid added that spirits had “taken a hammering” as Tesco had reduced its prices to accommodate multibuys.
He welcomed the Scottish government’s proposals for 50p per unit minimum pricing to protect the beer and wine trade. “I fear beer and wine will end up like cider where brands won’t be sold unless on promotion.
“With minimum pricing only really expensive drinks will be on promo. I can’t see how we can keep on selling things cheaper and cheaper.”
But John added: “I can’t believe the supplier will retain the price. If a lower quality vodka is the same prices as Smirnoff, the cost price will rise so there will still be a price differential. Suppliers will see it as a profit opportunity.”