Home truths don't hurt when it comes to mail order selling

11 January, 2008


Can you tell me if you need to get a licence - or have the one you currently have extended - to sell alcohol online for home delivery?

A Selling alcohol by mail

order - either via the internet, or in a more traditional form such as from a list or catalogue - is a licensable activity.

When applying for a premises licence, it makes good sense to list home delivery as a potential business activity. Many small off-licences and wine merchants are doing reasonable trade in the home delivery arena

and few (if any) licensing authorities are likely to object to it being included on your licence.

There are doubtless quite a few retailers

selling alcohol online whose licences don't technically allow them to do so. Perhaps they will never get found out, but it seems like a pointless gamble .

Talk to your local authority about a variation - but expect to pay a three-figure sum for the privilege of applying .

You should quickly recoup that investment.

Note that the location of the stock is required to have a premises licence, not the place from where the transaction is handled. For example, a call centre handling sales enquiries for a large wine merchant would not require a licence, but the warehouse would.

Anyone selling alcohol by mail

order should take care not to sell to under-18s. It is, however, legal to deliver to the home of an adult customer and allow a child to sign for the goods.

Q Is it true that New Zealand achieves the highest average price per bottle in the UK off-trade? If so, how does it compare with its rivals?

AContrary to popular belief, it is not true. Although

Kiwi wine sells for an impressive £6.18 a bottle, well ahead of Australia and France at £4.28 and the USA at £4.09, it's miles behind the market leader: Lebanon.

Lebanese wine sells on average for a whopping £12.15 a bottle in the UK off-trade, according to Nielsen statistics, thanks to the price

tag of the legendary Musar. But we're talking very small volumes.

Fewer than 50,000 litres of Lebanese wine

are sold in the UK off-trade every year, making the market worth less than £800,000. Even Austria (average price

£7.14) sells more.

Q We keep hearing how high duty on alcohol is in the UK. But surely it's more punitive in Scandinavia and Ireland?

A Wine duty in the UK comes in at £1.33 a bottle, compared

with zero in Spain, Italy and Germany, and 2p in France. Sweden and Finland aren't far behind us, but Ireland is, as you suggest, out in front with duty of £1.39 a bottle in sterling terms.

When it comes to spirits, our £5.48 a bottle seems high when compared

with £1.50 in Italy and £1.60 in Spain. But the heaviest spirits taxes are in Sweden, where duty is a staggering £10.25 a bottle.

Our beer taxes are, by a whisker, the highest in Europe, at 39p for a pint of 5 per cent abv lager, stout or ale. Germany, with an equally strong tradition as a brewing nation, sees fit only to impose a 4p levy per pint.

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