Scotland outlawed multibuys – including popular supermarket deals such as two-for-£16 on cases of beer and cider and three-for-£10 on bottles of wine – on October 1.
Early off-trade figures collected by Nielsen show that in the four weeks from October 1 to October 29, the volume of beer sold was down 14% on the same period in 2010.
Beer was already in decline in the year to October 1, by 3% in Scotland, but the dramatic fall in sales in October suggests the multibuy ban had a big impact on the market’s fortunes.
Sales patterns in England and Wales remained pretty much unchanged for beer, down 4% in the year to October 1, and 3% in the four weeks to October 29.
Though less dramatic, wine’s fortunes also seem to have taken a knock from the multibuy ban. Wine volumes in the year to October 1 were growing in Scotland, by 1%, but fell 6% in October, against a year ago.
This again compared with a steadier performance in England and Wales, where sales declined 3% in the year to October 1, and were down 4% in the four weeks to October 29.
Gavin Humphreys, client service manager at Nielsen, said it was still “very early days” to assess the full impact of the multibuy ban.
He added: “There could be other influences on the figures, such as the mild weather in some parts of the country around this period, but there is a definite trend.
“Scotland was outgrowing the market before October 1 and has done a complete turnaround. We can’t say it’s down to the ban but there is definitely a coincidence between the two things.”
Gavin Warburton, senior buying manager for beer at Tesco, said: “We have been delivering a like-for-like deal across the beer category where we can since the new legislation kicked in. However, we have seen a slight dip in sales since the introduction of the ban. In time, we think that the situation will change and rather than bulk buying, we imagine consumers will instead buy when they need.”
Scotland introduced the multibuy ban as part of a package of new restrictions aimed at reducing harmful drinking, and the ruling SNP intends to follow it up with minimum unit pricing for alcohol next year.
The apparent impact of the ban on bulk promotions came as Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh was awarded a research grant to investigate whether Scotland’s heaviest drinkers will change their habits as a result of the introduction of minimum pricing.
The research will be funded by the Chief Scientist Office and Alcohol Research UK and will focus on the shopping habits of people with alcohol-related illnesses.
Professor Jonathan Chick said: “In our pilot, we established that this group particularly consume cheap ciders and vodka.”