Multiple and independent drinks chains have been commended for responsible retailing practices in the same week that the relaxing of the UK’s alcohol laws led to accusations of off-trade sales to underage drinkers.
At the annual Responsible Drinks Retailing Awards this week, Waitrose took the gong for the most responsible multiple grocer. Presenting the award, Graham Holter, editor of OLN, said: “Anyone who thinks supermarkets are responsible for pushing cheap booze down the
throats of consumers should visit this retailer.”
Other awards went to Thresher for most responsible multiple specialist and The Southern Co-op for most responsible convenience store.
This week’s awards coincided with the launching of the biggest ever clampdown by the government and the licensed trade on shopkeepers selling alcohol to under-18s.
Many in the on-trade have been deflecting concerns about both binge and underage drinking towards the off-trade, saying drinks retailers are as much to blame for fuelling these issues.
At last week’s results presentation, Sainsbury chief executive Justin King dismissed comments that supermarkets should be held accountable for binge drinking following a spate of cut-price deals offered in the past month. These include Sainsbury’s offer of 20 bottles of 330ml Stella Artois for £8.98.
Shopworkers union Usdaw called for tighter security at supermarkets to protect employees against increased violence from drunken revellers in search of cheap alcohol.
Meanwhile, independent retailers in Scotland have hit out at the Scottish Parliament’s shock decision last week to cut off-licence trading hours by two hours to 10am to 10pm, while still allowing pubs to have a 24-hour licence from 2009.
Botterills chairman Jim Botterill said: “This is the most disgraceful decision taken in the history of the parliament. This is an eight per cent reduction in our trading hours and for what? How many underage drinkers do we get between eight and 10 in the morning?”
David Sands, MD of the eponymous chain, added: “We accept Scotland has a problem with alcohol and heavy drinking, but this decision gives the idea that we are the cause of all alcohol-related problems. We are often the victims of abuse from drunk people.”
Sonya Hook & Fiona McLelland