Keep them under pressure

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The Dump the Deals campaign is gaining real momentum. Our inboxes and letterboxes are being deluged with responses from licensees fully supporting...

The Dump the Deals campaign is gaining real momentum. Our inboxes and letterboxes are being deluged with responses from licensees fully supporting our efforts to put pressure on supermarket pricing and promotions.

You now have one more chance to put your views towards The Publican's submission to the Competition Commission - either by filling in the form on this page or by visiting www.thepublican.com/dumpthedeals and returning the form via email. Everything sent to The Publican will form part of the submission which we will deliver to the Commission next month.

In addition to this, MP John Grogan's Early Day Motion (EDM 495) has now hit the magic 100 signatures mark - currently it sits at 145 and counting.

Mr Grogan said: "I'm really pleased we've got to the magic 100. Most EDMs never even get to 100. It shows that The Publican's Dump the Deals campaign is having an effect and that The Publican's calls to get licensees to write to their MPs is working. I've received half a dozen myself!

"But now we have to move on and get the next 100 signatures. And that needs licenses to continue to write to their MPs."

Raising concerns

One of the MPs who signed the motion, Don Foster, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath and frontbench spokesman for culture, media and sport, last week spoke to The Publican and explained why he believes the issue is so significant.

"Supermarket pricing should concern licensees because their own livelihoods are at stake here. The second issue at stake is one that concerns all members of the public," he said.

"When we are seeing ridiculously high levels of people going to Accident & Emergency because of alcohol-related injures, and there are increasing levels of police incidents caused by alcohol-related disorder, you have to look at the causes of these problems," he added.

"Many pubs have signed up to the moratorium on happy hours and discounting but supermarkets can discount all they like. Pricing and promotions are undoubtedly part of the issue. And anyone who says otherwise is living in cloud cuckoo land."

Not us, says the off-trade…

The EDM and campaign around it have received a lot of criticism in the last week from off-trade community.

Shane Brennan, public affairs and communications manager for the Association of Convenience Stores, said: "We believe it is artificial to make a comparison between promotions in off-licences and those in pubs and nightclubs.

"Alcohol bought from an off-licence is overwhelmingly consumed at home and there is no time-limit placed on consumption."

Ed Watson, a spokesman for Asda, said: "They are knocking at the wrong door. We take the role of responsible drinks retailer very seriously and constantly monitor how well we are selling alcohol.

"Research shows the average age of binge-drinkers is 18 to 25 and 95 per cent of our customers are above that age. Binge-drinkers also mostly buy alcohol on impulse which tends to mean high street retailers."

However, Mr Foster believes these comments completely miss the point. "If they are being responsible then how can they justify selling alcohol below cost price?" he asks.

"If impulse purchasing is a matter for the high street why is so much alcohol available on impulse in supermarkets?"

"I have done my own research on this issue and I've found I can buy a litre of cider for under £1. At the end of the day there can be no doubt whatsoever that such pricing causes problems.

"I went out with the police in my constituency just before Christmas. I went out between 9pm and 3am and in that time I saw a large number of people who were too young to go into pubs drinking on the street with bottles and cans bought from supermarkets and off-licences - and they were fighting and creating trouble. One or two of them were taken off in an ambulance."

Write to your MP

Don Foster also urged licensees to write to their own MPs:

"Licensees need to be writing to their MPs. They have to bring these issues to their attention. Don't just urge them to sign the EDM 495 - send them your name and address and ask them to write back and tell you if they've signed it. And ask them if not, why not?

"I appreciate the time issues licensees have but it is vital we all get on board with this. You may be aware of all the issues but MPs have a million and one things to deal with. So give examples of the problems of supermarket promotions on your own patch."

- Write to your MP at Houses of Parliament, London SW1A 0AA. To check the name of your local MP visit www.upmystreet.com/commons/l/

Related topics: Marketing, Beer

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