Man at counter in convenience store

Convenience stores have gotten better at requesting ID for alcohol sales post Covid, while supermarkets are lagging behind, according to the latest audit figures from compliance and age verification expert Serve Legal. The firm uses 18- and 19-year-olds to help companies test the robustness of their ‘Challenge-25’ policies without breaking the law and scores them a pass rate based on their success in making prompt ID requests.

Convenience stores’ pass rate for alcohol sales stands at 82%, 3pp ahead of the total off-trade rate of 79%, while supermarkets are trailing with just 78%.

Pre-Covid, both convenience stores and supermarkets had similar pass rates of 83% and 82% respectively, and both saw their pass rates decline during the pandemic. But while c-stores have more or less recovered (now down just 1pp on pre-Covid), supermarkets have failed to improve, remaining at -4pp.

Forecourt pass rates, which covers petrol station stores that are not part of a symbol group or supermarket chain, also took a dip during the pandemic, falling from 78% pre-Covid to 74% during. They have since markedly improved, rising past the pre-pandic figure to hit 79%.

Meanwhile, the on-trade pass rate has fallen from 64% to 60%, with the pass rate for on-trade tenanted establishments tumbling from 59% pre-Covid to a shocking 33% post-Covid.

’’Post-Covid pass rates for alcohol purchases have exhibited a worrying decrease,’’ said Serve Legal founder and CEO Ed Heaver. “We conduct over 18,000 audits per month across the retail and hospitality sectors, and the results always surprise us. Through our latest audit revelations, it’s evident that 23% of our auditors (18/19yrs old) were able to purchase alcohol without any age verification testing at play. 

“The pandemic has brought about various challenges to the retail industry, including changes in customer behaviour, operational adjustments, and increased health and safety measures. These circumstances have put additional strain on staff members and this strain has been coupled with higher turnovers in the post-Covid labour market. The decline in pass rates could be attributed, at least in part, to the transitional period during which new staff members are adjusting to their roles and acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to address age-restricted sales challenges.’’

Serve Legal suggests that the numbers highlight the need for heightened diligence and effective age verification measures to ensure that no responsible retailer is providing young people access to restricted products without verifying their age first.

Is your age-verification up to scratch? Enter the Responsible Retailer of the Year category at The Convenience Awards 2024 here