Part 7.3 of this report (submitted to the Minister) addresses the promotion and merchandising of alcohol products by stand-alone off-licences.
“As indicated in my First Compliance Report” states RRAI Chairman Padraic White, “the RRAI members regard the exclusion of stand-alone off-licences from compliance with an agreed Code as an increasingly apparent anomaly.
“They have pointed to the fact that, while the Code prohibits the display or merchandising of alcoholic products in the window of mixed trader’s premises, there is no such restriction on stand-alone off-licence stores.
“The RRAI expects that relevant aspects of an approved Code of compliance under the proposed legislation would apply to these off-licences.”
However his comments found short shrift with National Off-Licence Association Chairman Evelyn Jones who likened such a development to turning the external appearance of off-licences and wine outlets into those of sex shops.
“The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Mr Dermot Ahern TD introduced the Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2008 based on recommendations set out in the Report of the Government Alcohol Advisory Group in which the National Off-Licence Association took an active part,” she told Drinks Industry Ireland, “This Bill imposed a closing time of 10 o’clock on our members. This was very damaging to many of us, in particular those located in factory towns etc who had shifts that ended after 10pm and several have since ceased to trade.
“At that time we, in good faith, accepted that based on the context of the terms of reference of the Alcohol Advisory Group, everyone would have to row-in and as separation was being enforced on mixed traders, then we reluctantly would have to live with this earlier closing.
“However” she pointed out, “at the last minute, the powerful retail giants were able to prevail on the Minister not to introduce Section 9 (separation) and to be allowed to develop a voluntary Code of Practice for mixed traders.
“Not content with getting away with this major coup, the RRAI are now disingenuously seeking to draw the independent specialist off-licence sector into their backroom type of politics by advocating the removal of the display and merchandising of products in our windows using the Voluntary Code of Practice section of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011.”
She pointed out that independent specialist off-licences display alcohol because that is the only product that they sell.
“They do not price promote alcohol at below-cost prices merely in order to drive footfall into their shops to sell other more profit-yielding grocery products,” she stated, “We have a strict Code of Practice to which we already adhere.
“We have the most progressive alcohol retailing training programme in Europe including an e-learning module delivered directly to the alcohol retailer in their shop because they cannot now afford to employ staff to cover for them to attend external training.
“So lets be clear here, the RRAI have told the Minister in its compliance report that it ‘expects that relevant aspects of an approved Code of compliance under the proposed legislation would apply to these off-licences’.
“We ‘expect’ Minister Shatter to see this request for the cynical marketeering that it is and not be dictated to by aggressive retail giants…like his predecessor was!”
She concluded, “Mixed traders should note that:
- • they got a ‘get out of jail’ card when the minister did not sign in section 8
- • it is their own voluntary Code that prohibits the display or merchandising of alcoholic products in their windows
- • if mixed traders are not happy with this part of their voluntary code then remove it
- • this was not imposed on them by the independent specialist sector and they now seek to impose it on us
- • this is not an independent specialist sector issue and that it is their own code that is flawed
- • smaller mixed traders are being put at risk by the wishes of the retail giants
- • a call for the enactment of the 2008 legislation is the logical answer if they cannot enforce their own voluntary code voluntarily.”