Asda has warned that proposed new legislation for Scotland controlling where retailers can sell alcohol will harm consumer choice.
The draft law, introduced to the Scottish Parliament this week, requires retailers to limit stocks of alcohol to a single designated area of the store, preventing them stacking booze on aisle ends or in other parts of the store.
The change would be the death knell for big-box booze deals placed at the front of store or in the centre of food aisles, forcing retailers to bring such offers into the main aisle at the expense of other products.
"Legislation that arbitrarily controls floor space will force retailers to rationalise ranges and only stock the most popular products," said a spokeswoman. "Clearly, we want to stock items that maybe only a small number of our customers want to buy, but this law makes it much more difficult."
The Scottish Retail Consortium warned that the measures would particularly affect retailers during key sales periods such as Christmas or big sporting events. It would be lobbying for a relaxation of the rules during these times, said director Fiona Moriarty. "We would like the Scottish Executive to look at the evidence and take proportionate measures," she added.
Fears that the regulations would go as far as a ban on the cross-merchandising of alcohol and food, however, proved unfounded.
The draft proposal does allow retailers to continue to merchandise food and alcohol together, as long as the products are packaged together - such as in a gift box - and are displayed within the designated beers, wines and spirits zone.
Scottish Grocers Federation chief executive John Drummond cautiously welcomed the draft regulations. "We are pleased that after consultation we have reached a stage where these regulations shouldn't make too much difference to current displays," he said.
"Key to this, however, is that the legislation is clearly defined, so that interpretation is kept to a minimum.
"There have been some instances of local licensing boards overstepping the mark, talking of petitioning off areas, for example. I think that's a step too far and it must be prevented."