Friday 11 January 2008

Rebutting the rebuttal

The British Retail Consortium has a section on their website called "Retail Myths" which is supposed to set the record strait. This is the content from the page in that section called "Price cutting by supermarkets is a major cause of binge drinking."
  • Supermarkets sell alcohol as part of a wider grocery offer, alcohol sales make up less than 10% of turnover in a typical store.
  • Supermarkets are not the typical store for those consuming alcohol immediately. Only around 1% of all transactions are of only alcohol and alcohol sales are not aimed at immediate consumption, for example drinks are not generally chilled.
  • Promotions are not encouraging excessive consumption, simply offering value for customers alongside the other groceries they buy. Promotional activity tends to be on larger volume purchases which are typically consumed with friends and family at parties and barbecues or over an extended period of time.
  • Supermarkets have been at the forefront of the drive to tackle under age sales. They have introduced a number of new policies including the challenge 21 principle, where all customers who appear under 21 are challenged and have to provide ID to purchase alcohol. This has resulted in a significant improvement in their performance, well ahead of pubs.
  • Supermarkets have strict policies on self scan tills and home deliveries to ensure alcohol is only sold to legitimate customers.
  • Supermarkets have fully supported labelling information for consumers through units of alcohol labelling and promotion of the Drink Aware educational website.

  1. Firstly, percentage of turnover isn't a very good defence against accusations of over discounting to get sales, since if you increase the discount then until volume catches up percentage of turnover will go down. Secondly, and this is just supposition based on a back of the envelope measurement of a couple of my local supermarkets, 10% of turnover isn't bad for a department that takes up about 5% of the floor space in a store.
  2. What does 'immediately' have to do with the price of fish? On street drinking is a different problem from binge drinking and a lot of supermarkets, especially the "convenience" sub brands, do have chill cabinets these days.
  3. I would like to see the research that shows that when Joe Bloggs buys a 24 can box of [insert name of premium lager brand of choice here] instead of an 18 can box because it is cheaper he going to a BBQ rather than just putting it in the fridge and quaffing it. I would very much like to see the way the survey was designed to ensure that people wern't just giving that sort of answer to look less like a binge drinker.
  4. Again under age sales is a different problem to binge drinking. Also most of the policies they have put in place are about mindlessly asking everyone if they are over 21 to see if they have to produce ID rather than training staff on how to spot under age drinkers.
  5. Woop-de-do self scan tills are no worse than staffed tills at letting people buy booze. Still not sure how this is relevant to the accusation that binge drinkers are buying the slabs of cans that are in supermarket discount offers.
  6. Finally something that could be considered relevant to the problem...

because a far better page would be one arguing that while supermarkets are a source of supply to the binge drinker the problem itself is so rooted into our society that it would take price rises of truly epic proportions, if that was the only factor, to stop it. Whereas there is a possibility of using education, information and labelling as part of a programme to persuade the marginal cases to not spend every evening necking bad brewed under licence copies of foreign beers. Of course we won't make any true progress until we start looking at the reasons why people are self medicating in this way...

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