Retailers are being urged to support a new good-practice guide for responsible alcohol retailing which is being launched in response to increased government scrutiny of how the sector operates.
The guide, by the Wine & Spirit Association, British Retail Consortium and Association of Convenience Stores, is the first off-trade response to Downing Street’s alcohol strategy for reducing binge drinking.
It covers underage drinking, instore ads and siting of fixtures. Unlike the on-trade code, it steers clear of price promotions as it was felt this might be seen as anti-competitive. WSA director Quentin Rappoport said the
guide was being launched in advance of a summer crackdown by home secretary David Blunkett against retailers that sell to the underage.
“I hope this will be a step forward in tackling irresponsible drinking,” said Rappoport.
“It has been well-received by policymakers and the industry as a whole, and we will together ensure it is widely distributed to retailers of all sizes.” He warned retailers’ support of the guide may be used by councils to decide licensing applications when they take responsibility for licensing next year.
Licensing minister Richard Caborn said: “The off-trade’s new guidance represents real commitment from the industry to promote corporate and social responsibility.”
The 22-page document gives advice about not serving anyone who looks underage, even if they offer ID; how to run responsible instore promotions; displaying sensible drinking messages; and refers to existing codes on advertising, packaging and promotion of drinks.
Kevin Hawkins, director general of the BRC, said the guide would help the trade identify “bad apples” who sell alcohol irresponsibly.
Tesco said it was using it as the basis of a new campaign advising staff not to serve anyone who looked under 21 unless they produced ID.
“We think it’s a good first step,” said a spokesman. “We are making sure a lot of the code is incorporated into staff training.”
The guidelines are being issued after an alcohol strategy meeting between Tony Blair and trade groups last month, when ministers warned the focus was switching from the on to the off-trade. They said supermarkets needed to be more involved in reducing binge drinking.
Claire Hu