Retail blow

Alcohol promotion ban would cost shops £96m

Alcohol sale in supermarket
Shops face a costly challenge to meet proposed restrictions

Plans to ban the promotion of alcohol in Scotland would cost the retail sector £96 million just for refitting stores.

That doesn’t include the costs of removing alcohol-related merchandise, changing frontages to hide any sign of alcohol, or the loss of revenue from reduced tourism or events.

In its submission to the government’s consultation on restricting alcohol marketing and promotion, closing on Thursday, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) says there has been no business and regulatory impact assessment, or any engagement with industry.

This means the proposals in the consultation are presented “without any understanding of the impact on businesses or the economy. That makes it impossible to assess whether they are a proportional public health intervention,” says the SRC.

The proposals to ban alcohol merchandising could include removing fashion items with brand names, or stationery which references alcoholic products. It could mean off-trade retailers would have to cover windows or branding.

The £96m cost of fitting out stores to meet the most extreme options proposed would be on top of the £250 million already being spent on the deposit return scheme, and other costs that would be incurred if restrictions are also placed on where high fat, salt, and sugar products can be placed in store.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, deputy head of the SRC, said:  “Scottish retailers take their duty to sell alcoholic products responsibly seriously.  They already comply with a complex and onerous licensing system and have successfully implemented Minimum Unit Pricing.

“Retailers are legally constrained on where they can sell alcohol in store and follow strict voluntary codes of conduct which ensure alcohol is not marketed at children.

“We don’t believe the evidence in this consultation in any way explains how and why the further measures to restrict how retailers operate would have a specific link to reducing alcohol-related harms.

“However, we are clear the cost of these measures would be very significant. It would cost over £96 million just to refit Scottish shops to conform to the most extreme of these requirements.

“That doesn’t include the costs of removing alcohol related merchandise from stores, of changing frontages to hide any sign of alcohol, or the loss of revenue from reduced tourism or events.

“The failure to consult with industry ahead of the publication of the consultation and lack of any accompanying regulatory impact assessment – against the government’s own rule – has made this consultation exercise nearly pointless.

“Sadly, the consultation doesn’t bring us closer to tacking Scotland’s terrible problems with alcohol misuse because the measures aren’t placed in the context of Scotland’s economy.

“We hope the Government will learn the lesson from this debacle and engage properly to develop proportional evidence-based interventions which retailers can get behind and which can make a real difference to tackling alcohol misuse amongst the minority who abuse it.”

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