The government has promised to take seriously a call from c-store retailers for ministers to lead the cultural change required to make young people accept that they need to carry proof of age ID.

The call came from David Rae, chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, at its annual conference in Blackpool. “Most retailers support fair and equitable test purchasing regimes,” he said. “But there are two sides to every transaction and young people must expect to carry ID. A change of culture is required from the top.”

Home Office minister Hazel Blears told the conference she would take the suggestion seriously and would discuss it with Home Secretary David Blunkett and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blears pointed out that the issue was shooting up the political agenda in relation to the misuse of alcohol. She said the Home Office and police were planning a major campaign in the summer to stamp out under-age and binge drinking.

She said the government recognised the problems retailers faced as a result of crime and anti-social behaviour.

Research carried out for The Grocer in the week before the ACS conference shows that crime is still a massive problem for independent retailers - although the results were better
than those obtained from a similar telephone poll in 2002 (The Grocer, September 28, page 30).

Just less than half of retailers said they suffered from theft by customers, compared with 69% last time. Abuse from customers was also a problem, with 45% reporting they had been victims.

Violent crimes had been committed in 15% of stores, but this again was an improvement on the figure for 2002 of 32%.

The only figures to show a significant deterioration concerned the response by police. Only 41% of retailers who asked for police assistance said they were quick to respond, compared with 59% in the previous survey.

Martin Beaumont, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, told the ACS conference that a survey last year had shown the scale of the problem faced by his business.

He said: “It is the convenience stores that are in the front line of retail business crime. It is not just the impact on us and our profit, but also the huge impact it has on our staff and their families.”

John Wood