All checkouts should be free of the pester factor

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Sir: In response to your article ‘retailers to face government call for guilt-free tills’ (3 November), Asda claims there is no evidence that confectionery at tills changes consumer behaviour. This is disingenuous. All supermarkets know that this practice encourages pestering by children and impulse purchases. Increasing sales is the point of the exercise.

News that the Department of Health may call on supermarkets to remove confectionery from their tills may sound good, but a few more ‘guilt-free’ checkout lanes are not the answer.

This is the sort of fudge that we have come to expect from the Responsibility Deal - tick box token gestures that pretty much allow business as usual. Shoppers are busy and it is unrealistic to expect them to seek out a ‘guilt-free’ lane. But in any case, why should they have to? All checkouts in all stores - large and small - should be ‘guilt-free’. We say remove the junk and replace it with, for example, fresh fruit.

Even junk-free checkouts will count for little if supermarkets continue to promote cut-price offers and deals on products high in fat, sugar or salt. How many of them will pledge to stop doing that?

Charlie Powell, director, Children’s Food Campaign

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