Convenience stores have ramped up their efforts to tackle underage alcohol and cigarette sales but still trail the supermarkets, according to test purchasing company Serve Legal.

C-store staff asked for ID on 75% of the 5,389 occasions test purchases on alcohol were carried out, while supermarket staff asked 78% of the time, new figures seen exclusively by The Grocer revealed. C-stores also scored highly on cigarette sales, requesting ID 71% of the time, while supermarkets again asked 78% of the time.

Although they were still behind multiples, c-stores had become more vigilant in recent years and were shedding their reputation as easy targets for underage shoppers, said Serve Legal director Charlie Mowat. Pass rates in 2009 were 55% for cigarettes and 72% for alcohol.

"The biggest driver for underage shoppers for buying alcohol or cigarettes is whether they think they'll be served and get away with it," he said. "As many convenience stores become more professional, young kids will shift their focus to operators that don't demonstrate best practice."

Staff training had also lifted pass rates, he said, with workers more aware that they could be tested, amid increased focus from management on underage legislation.

"Asking for ID is linked to good customer service. Our tests show that where a cashier has eye contact and conversation with the visitor, the pass rate is much higher."