The changes to the legislation mean retailers can no longer highlight promotions of alcohol products outside of the authorised sales areas. Concerns have been raised that retailers may have to remove window graphics or vinyl coverings from windows, and that even informing customers that beer, wines and spirits are sold in a shop may be classed as a promotion.
If a window is in the authorised sales area, government guidance states there is no reason why a retailer cannot have an alcohol promotion facing out. However, Scottish Grocers' Federation (SGF) chief executive John Drummond said the ruling may be open to interpretation. "Licensing officers may consider the window as automatically outside of the authorised sales area and prohibit promotions facing out," he said. "That's why I'm calling on local authorities to take a common-sense approach to some of the controversial 'grey areas' thrown up by the Act and avoid retailers spending money for no good reason."
Another area of contention is online ordering. If an order is picked outside of Scotland retailers will not have to comply, which Drummond believes will favour the multiples with an online presence. "If a business with a hub in the North of England is able to offer discounts it creates an uneven playing field that favours the multiples," he added.
Drummond urged retailers who may be affected by the legislation to contact their local licensing officer to ensure their store adheres to the legislation.
The Scottish Wholesale Association and the SGF have launched a guide for independent retailers selling alcohol, The Alcohol Act Explained A Guide to the Legislation.