Minimum alcohol pricing to hand more off-trade to multiples

Minimum alcohol pricing to hand more off-trade to multiples

The organisation representing independent retail in Ireland has warned a minimum pricing structure for alcohol will strengthen the dominance of larger stores.

The plans could see the price of a bottle of vodka or can of beer rising by over 50 per cent depending on alcohol content.

Health minister Leo Varadkar said the minimum pricing structure would save lives, reduce disease and prevent accidents.

The measures, under the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, will not be passed before the general election.

The proposed reforms include outlawing the promoting of alcohol near schools, playgrounds, or on public transport. Breaches of advertising, sponsorship, and the promotion of alcohol will be subject to criminal prosecutions for the first time.

Also proposed is the structural separation of alcohol products, similar to arrangements in Northern Ireland, where areas selling alcohol must be separated structurally from groceries.

RGDATA director general Tara Buckley said that aspect of the proposal would disproportionately impact smaller family-owned stores with less room to adapt their business premises, but will leave the larger multiple operators untouched.

“The main problem with the sale and display of alcohol products in shops has been the irresponsible marketing and promotional policies adopted by some of the largest retailers in the State who have been engaged in the below-cost sale of alcohol,” she said.

Ms Buckley said some large retailers had adopted “irresponsible and reckless” sales practices, but conceded some of those would be “at last addressed by this bill”.

She added: “However they are also the main retail winners from this new legislation as the new rules on structural separation of alcohol products will cause them limited inconvenience and allow them to strengthen their market position in liquor sales.

“Regrettably smaller family-owned shops which exercise greater control and restraint on alcohol sales will have the greatest challenge adopting their premises to accommodate new rules on alcohol sales.

“Many may be unable to comply or will not be able to fund the changes and may have to give up alcohol sales completely.”

Ms Buckley said RGDATA would be making their concerns known to the minister and seeking changes to the bill.