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Checkout at 40: Suppliers Threatened By Off-Licence Sales Growth (June 1990)

By Publications Checkout
Checkout at 40: Suppliers Threatened By Off-Licence Sales Growth (June 1990)

This year, Checkout commemorates its 40th anniversary under its current ownership, and with this in mind, every week, Retail Intelligence is going to ‘reel in the years’ and publish a story from our extensive archives. This article from June 1990 discusses how publicans planned to combat growing alcoholic beverage sales in off-licences.

A report on the recent VFI Conference in Vintners World states that the only option open to publicans to combat growing alcoholic beverage sales in supermarkets is to tackle the problem at the source, the suppliers.

Paul Hughes, a publican in Tullamore stated that “The off-licence ‘Price War’ had broken out before in leading supermarket chains last Christmas, which resulted in the major spirit brands being sold at the minimum margin allowable by law – one penny. Supermarkets are getting into this area more and more, he said, pointing out that 70% of liquor sales in this country are sold by publicans.

He also cited one example from his own experience. A major supermarket had been given permission to open an off-licence in his area despite his protests. He further stated that a repetition of last Christmas would put him out of business.

“As there appeared to be little that could be done about the supermarkets themselves directly, the only possible alternative would be to tackle the source, the suppliers. He hoped that the VFI would invite major distribution companies to sit down and find a solution to the problem pointing out that “we could threaten to blacklist brands if this practice continues”.


“At the moment, supermarkets enjoy a modest business in this area,” he told delegates “This will grow if we do not get something done via the supplier”.

Delegates were told that de-listing appeared to be their only recourse to the problem. John McKeown, a publican and wholesaler from Longford, informed VFI Conference that it was his opinion that the supermarkets were buying it much cheaper than the publicans were able to and called for this to be looked into. Delegates passed the motion.

Alcoholic beverages are included in the Groceries Order, which prohibits boycotts. If the publicans were to carry out their threat, they would be breaking the law and open to prosecution.

© Checkout Magazine

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