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New Licensing Regulations Cost Scottish Convenience Store Industry in Excess of £16 million

As convenience store retailers and suppliers gather in St Andrews for the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) Annual Conference, figures gathered by SGF reveal complying with the new licensing regulations, due to come into force on the 1st September 2009, has cost the Scottish convenience store industry over £16 million.

2009 heralds the biggest change the convenience store industry has witnessed in a generation when the Licensing (Scotland) 2005 Act comes into effect. In addition to increased licence application fees retailers must now complete a layout and operating plan and ensure staff are appropriately trained in order to be granted a licence to sell alcohol.

Speaking on the first day of the conference, John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said,

“When the Scottish Government gave assurances that retailers operating responsible businesses had nothing to fear from the new legislation this obviously did not apply to costs.

“Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is complex and our members are committed to playing their part in changing this culture, however, convenience store retailers, already struggling with the economic downturn, are reeling at the cost of complying with the new licensing regulations.

“With additional alcohol legislation due any day, plans underway to remove the display of tobacco, difficulties accessing credit and record low consumer confidence retailers are reaching crisis point.

“If the Scottish Government wants to avoid job losses and shop closures they must stop legislating against convenience store retailers and work in partnership with us. “

Over 300 delegates made up of convenience store retailers and suppliers will gather at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews from 27th February to 1st March for the SGF Annual Conference.

The theme for the conference is Community First! Over the two days delegates will explore the integral role of the local shop within communities throughout Scotland.

Scottish Grocers’ Federation Disappointed with Scottish Government Bill on Tobacco Control

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has reacted with extreme disappointment to measures included in the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill which require retailers to remove tobacco from display. This decision will lead to considerable costs and disruption for retailers already struggling with the economic downturn and is founded on an immature argument that tobacco displays are the primary reason young people take up smoking.

SGF has repeatedly expressed concern regarding the lack of compelling evidence supporting the introduction of display bans as a method of reducing youth smoking rates.

On the eve of the SGF Annual Conference, John Drummond, Chief Executive of SGF said,

“For the Scottish Government to launch a Bill to remove the display of tobacco in retail outlets in the same week as New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, decided not to proceed with a tobacco display ban, citing the lack of international evidence to support claims that a ban reduces smoking levels and the expense as the main reasons for reversing proposals, makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s claim to be a friend of small shops.

“SGF has repeatedly warned the Government that a display ban will cost a typical convenience store between £5,000 and £10,000 just to modify their store.

“The Scottish Government’s argument that tobacco displays encourage young people to smoke is simplistic and immature. If they wanted to tackle this issue in a serious manner rather than primarily focussing on retailers to reduce youth smoking they would ensure adequate resources were available to target the shocking level of tobacco available on the black market and make it an offence for adults to provide tobacco to under-18s.

“SGF is concerned a ban is more likely to increase young people’s fascination in tobacco and could encourage smokers, who do not see tobacco on display in legitimate stores, to buy from rogue traders who are prepared to sell illicit products.”

Illegal Cigarettes Partnership Must Address All Aspects of Black Market

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) has welcomed the launch of a joint initiative between the Scottish Government, trading standards officers and HMRC to tackle illegal and illicit sales of tobacco but warns it will be ineffective if focused solely on detecting the sale of illegal tobacco products in retail outlets.

SGF Chief Executive, John Drummond, said;

“There is a growing demand for smuggled imports of tobacco throughout the UK, with approximately 27% of cigarettes and 68% of roll your own tobacco purchased on the black market. SGF has been asking the Government for some time to develop a strategy, supported with adequate resources, to focus on the illegal trade in tobacco.

“Stemming the flow of illegal tobacco throughout communities is vital. A campaign which focuses solely on retail outlets is an easy way out and will not work. To be effective the initiative must focus on a sufficiently resourced street level enforcement campaign.

“Real measures to address the multi-billion black market in tobacco and adults who provide tobacco to under-18s can make a difference to reducing youth smoking. These are the interventions the Scottish Government should be supporting rather than tobacco display ban gimmicks.

“Only this week the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Kay, decided not to proceed with a tobacco display ban citing the lack of international evidence that a ban reduces youth smoking and the expense as the main reasons for reversing proposals for the ban.

“SGF has made these points repeatedly to the Scottish Government and we hope they will now review their proposals as a matter of urgency. This issue will be discussed at our Annual Conference to be held this weekend at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews. Over 300 delegates are expected to attend the conference made up of convenience store retailers and suppliers.”

SGF Community Store Campaigner Discusses Implications of Tobacco Display Ban with Local MSP

Murdo Fraser MSP with Community Store Campaigner Pete CheemaIndependent SPAR retailer and SGF Community Store Campaigner, Pete Cheema, recently met with Murdo Fraser MSP, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, at his Meigle store, to talk about the proposals to ban the display of tobacco in shops.

During the visit Pete was able to show Mr Fraser how impractical banning the display of tobacco would be due to the lack of storage behind the shop counter and they discussed the unintended consequences of a ban including a possible increase in transaction times, customer migration to larger stores and a greater opportunity for stock theft.

Pete Cheema said;

“Young people should not smoke and should be actively discouraged from doing so but rather than concentrating solely on sanctions directed at retailers to reduce youth smoking the Scottish Government must address the black market in tobacco and adults who provide tobacco to under –18s.”

Murdo Fraser MSP said;

“As a supporter of local shops I oppose policy changes that may put local shops in jeopardy. Despite there being no compelling evidence to indicate a display ban will reduce youth smoking, the Scottish Government is determined to proceed with a measure which will cost small shops thousands of pounds. This is reckless behaviour particularly during an economic downturn and is treating the businesses which will bear these additional costs and legislation as expendable.

“What are needed are effective deterrents against adults who give children cigarettes or allow them to be taken, education of young people and properly resourced policing of the black market.”

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