Pring: Stop below-cost sales now

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Related tags: Supermarket, Alcoholic beverage, Responsible drinks retailing

Pring: Stop below-cost sales now
MA editor and industry guru Andrew Pring urges the Government to act to stop loss leading on booze in supermarkets

It's a shame the Prime Minister could not attend our Responsible Drinks Retailing lunch on Thursday.

If he had, he'd have got a very different view of life in the pub trade to the one he and his advisors see peddled so regularly in the Daily Mail and other propaganda sheets (which is no doubt his only contact with our business).

He'd have been surprised, and hopefully impressed, by the enormous efforts pubs, pub companies, drinks suppliers and local authorities go to in their efforts to keep pubs safe and responsible places.

He might also have worked out that the problems among young drinkers are just not going to be solved by slapping more tax on alcohol: the supermarkets can shoulder the extra cost, or force it back on to drinks suppliers, and will keep on under-cutting pubs until the cows come home.

And it's a very short route from the supermarket shelves to the nearest park bench, where almost all of today's binge drinking problems originate.

Home Truths

Hopefully, even though he couldn't attend our RDR lunch and see the awards handed out for exceptional performance, he learnt some home truths at the breakfast meeting he convened the previous day.

Number 10 officials were keeping agenda and attendees under their hat, but MA understands representatives of the entire drinks spectrum were there, and that includes the off-trade.

We'll know soon enough what was said, but it would be amazing if the off-trade wasn't made to feel distinctly uncomfortable about the rock-bottom prices they're retailing alcohol at these days.

Whether that will have any effect on their Christmas offers is somehow doubtful. The major supermarkets have become virtually untouchable politically and steer their own profit-driven course, oblivious to social impact.

The simplest step the Government could take, of course, would be to prohibit selling below cost - as was the case in the Republic of Ireland until as recently as last year.

Christmas stings

Meanwhile, as we await an astonishing eruption of common sense in Government, pubs must continue to do all they can to protect themselves against stings on underage drinkers and "drunks".

Challenge 21, checking for Pass accreditation and careful assessment of drinkers' behaviour are the foolproof ways to keep out of trouble. Though doesn't it say something rather tragic about the state of the country when pubs can't allow customers to let their hair down at Christmas?

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