Focus – that’s a word which must be top of mind in the wholesale/independent sector at a time when headlines such as “Iceland goes bust” refer to that chilly North Atlantic republic rather than the high street frozen food chain. One issue that constantly bubbles up (pun intended) is that of youngsters and alcohol. Is it time for a re-think? Gallant efforts by trade associations and other worthy bodies to publicise the dangers of selling alcohol to under-18s are one thing. But I’m told reality is different. There’s “Challenge 21” and “ Challenge 25” and ”DrinkAware” but are too many cooks spoiling the broth? Independents are not in the business of educating the great British public about alcohol units and health issues – but they are, crucially, in the business of holding on to their licence. More focus is required. Independent retailers in the community need more emphasis on (a) proof of age (b) training for staff and (c) showing the community how they are responsibly helping parents educate children about the dangers of under-age drinking. Faking of identity is one problem. One high-profile retailer who does not trust “unofficial” ID cards says he will only accept a passport or driving licence to prove age.Another has moved on from the ‘No ID No Sale’ slogan to ‘18? Prove it!’ and favours a hologram on cards, like that on the new driving licence, which is difficult to fake. As the crunch develops, so does the temptation to take a chance on a sale. Don’t do it.

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