The Scottish Alcohol Act has already taken its toll on independent retailers, just days after the regulations came into force.
The new requirement for multi-packs to reflect the price of units sold individually has lost one retailer hundreds of pounds in alcohol sales. Neil Babington, of Scott Street Convenience Stores in Galashiels, near the English border, said the Co-op across the road had slashed the price of a can of Stella from £1.59 to 89p.
“Thursdays are my biggest days for alcohol, but last night my sales were down £400,” he said. “When my current stock finishes I’ll have to stop selling individual cans. I was selling a can of Carlsberg at £1.25, now I have to at 99p.” Neil said he would also lose a unique selling point over the mults, which can’t sell individual cans. “It’ll encourage binge drinking, contrary to the aims of the Act, as I can only sell four-packs now.”
With the Act also banning quantity discounts, he also warned that people would cross the border into England to bulk buy. “A booze run won’t be continental anymore,” he said. “The Act could close down many independents.”
Ian Mitchell, of The Village Store near Ayr, said he was prepared for the Act because he had adopted a Challenge 25 policy - which is now mandatory - over the past two years. “I’ve just had to change a couple of posters and prices,” he said.
But retailers hit out at Tesco for encouraging its Scottish customers to buy cut-price alcohol online, delivered from English warehouses. “It’s going against what the government is trying to do - stop binge drinking,” said Ian. Donna Morgan, of Brownlie of Biggar in Biggar, said it was “totally wrong” that Tesco was able to deliver alcohol from England. “It makes a mockery of the law.”
But John Drummond, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF), said Tesco’s attempt to bypass the restrictions would accrue it additional costs for the multiple. “It’s a long way from Carlisle to Inverness with a case of the latest discounted offer on Zinfandel!”