Holter on the loose

09 August, 2007

Trading Standards going too far in suggesting disciplinary action

There is yet more worrying evidence emerging about the tactics used in test purchasing campaigns.

After an assistant has been caught out (a phrase that is generally more accurate than "caught breaking the law"), their employers have been receiving calls.

Not for a friendly chat about training requirements or partnership with the police and local authority. No: it seems the call is to suggest that the person who was recently slapped with an £80 fine should also be disciplined or even sacked by head office.

We already know that there are police officers who believe they have the power to raise the legal minimum age for alcohol purchasing from 18 to 21. Now we have Trading Standards departments who think they can influence the personnel policies of off-licence chains.

Summertime and the living is hard

The kids go back to school in a couple of weeks, clothes shops are selling off their shorts and flip-flops, and drinks retailers in most areas are getting very uneasy about their summer sales figures.

Comparing 2007 to 2006, when there was the double benefit of a hot summer and a World Cup, makes for depressing reading. Sales are down by 20 per cent in many areas, thanks to rained-off barbecues and a general lack of sociability.

The one consolation is that everyone is in the same waterlogged boat. But are things going to be disproportionately worse for smaller traders as the autumn arrives?

The multiple grocers will have found it hard, if not impossible, to hit their volume targets on beer. Don't bet against some aggressive offers in the supermarket aisles as buying departments attempt to make up lost ground.

Plastic for the people

The idea of putting wine in the sort of plastic bottles that are used for orange squash or methylated spirits is not a new one - cheap and fearful plonk has been sold in such packaging for many years. What is being proposed now is something altogether more sophisticated and I see no reason why wine drinkers shouldn't embrace sturdy plastic bottles in the same eager way as they approached screwcaps.

But we should tread carefully. Cider producers are achieving a more premium image by abandoning plastic in favour of glass and the results are impressive.

Just humour them

Camra is an organisation that many in the off-trade have a lot of time and respect for. But when press releases are issued implying that take-home beer drinking is destroying not only pub profits but the very world we live in, it's hard not to conclude that the pressure group is at the mercy of deluded, fanatical, blinkered, hysterical and paranoid crackpots. I hope they get lots of visitors.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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