We have seen huge changes over the past few years. Tobacco plain packaging and the abolition of 10s and 12.5g packs started the ball rolling, the soft drinks levy came in in April and minimum pricing of alcohol in Scotland was introduced in May and passed by the Welsh Assembly last week.
We are seeing many supermarkets in England adopting a voluntary code of practice preventing the sale of energy drinks to under-16s. They are, however, selling alcohol at rock bottom prices and much cheaper than independent retailers can buy from their own suppliers.
As independent retailers, we’re at the forefront of customer comments, complaints and criticism regarding many of the changes we’ve seen recently. A few have said that Britain is turning into a nanny state; smokers have defiantly stated that photos on olive green packs won’t make them quit; and some have complained at having to pay more for their favourite soft drink after they’ve spent an hour at the gym.
One thing is clear: responsible retailers are once again those enforcing the law and losing out to unscrupulous retailers who continue to sell cheap illicit tobacco and buy soft drinks from sources not affected by the levy.
Hopefully we can learn lessons as an industry and start to adopt changes that benefit us and our consumers without the need for legislation and further taxes, and the government needs to realise that legislation has to be policed correctly to protect the many responsible retailers who often lose out financially because they comply with the law.