Holter on the loose

02 November, 2007

There's a downside to 'negative licensing' for tobacco

Negative licensing for tobacco retailing has some sort of logic to it, but we should be worried about the detail of the scheme - which basically assumes that anybody is responsible enough to sell cigarettes until it can be proved otherwise.

The word that concerns me here is "proved". Under the new system, stores or individuals who allow under-age sales on three occasions within a two-year period can be banned from selling tobacco for a year.

That puts the focus firmly on test purchasing which, for all its merits, is desperately in need of standardisation.

We still hear far too many stories from honest retailers who have been punished for uncharacteristic mistakes and who genuinely feel they are being entrapped.

It will be interesting to see how negative licensing shapes up , because if it's deemed a success, there will be voices inside and outside Parliament suggesting it's applied to alcohol retailers too. It may become harder to justify having two different systems.

Feel the love

Doctor Who has the daleks, Brighton & Hove Albion have Crystal Palace and drinks suppliers have Tesco. There's something life-affirming about having hate figures, but there have been some very odd happenings in our industry of late. Tesco has become, well, cuddly.

Of course, the corporate machine at Cheshunt grinds on as ruthlessly as ever, but the drinks team is everybody's new best friend. Brewers and wine suppliers, large and small, are gushing in their praise for Tesco buyers - even in private, for heaven's sake ! The Tesco Drinks Awards had

the air of a love-in and seemed to represent all that's changed in the relationship between Tesco and its drinks suppliers.

Tesco's problem in the past may essentially have been one of presentation - and it played the greedy behemoth quite convincingly. Now it's offering an out stretched hand to microbrewers, adding depth to its wine range, celebrating quirky packaging and enthusiastically supporting companies making lower-alcohol and organic drinks.

Tesco is still not everyone's cup of tea, and it will remain an almighty thorn in the side of its competitors. But retailers of all sizes could learn something from the way the BWS team is engaging with the industry whose goods it sells so successfully.

Pictured and shamed

The way shoplifting is shrugged off as a minor offence and a virtually victimless crime is a disgrace, and is offensive to the thousands of retailers whose livelihoods are affected by it.

The fact that so many thieves don't even bother to hide their faces when they snatch merchandise in full view of the CCTV cameras really tells you everything you need to know. Brian McEntee, of the Hop Inn in Reading, displays stills of people he deems undesirable in

his front window. It's a brave strategy, and it's working - so it's worth copying.

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