MP appeals for shift of alcohol retail displays

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 11:03 21/09/2012
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Labour MP Maryan Street has asked Nelson supermarkets to shift their alcohol displays so they are not “immediately obvious on entry”, with the Alcohol Reform Bill snaking its way through Parliament.

Ms Street wrote to eight supermarkets at the start of this month, seeking support for a “voluntary response” to the issue.

“While it may not alter anyone's purchasing behaviour, it is part of the total societal response to alcohol consumption and abuse,” she wrote.

Her plea came after Parliament voted down attempts to either raise the drinking age back to 20 or introduce a split age of 18 in bars and clubs and 20 in off-licences, in a rare three-way conscience vote at the end of last month.

Ms Street initially supported the split purchase age, and then voted to raise it to 20 when it came down to a final run-off between 18 and 20.

The Alcohol Reform Bill has the potential to affect alcohol retail hours, advertising restrictions and various pricing mechanisms.

Ms Street said in her letter to Nelson supermarkets that one of the areas under consideration, which arose from a supplementary order paper from Justice Minister Judith Collins, related to retail displays and advertising of alcohol products.

“The idea behind the minister's amendment is to shift alcohol products to a separate area of a supermarket away from the entry, so that customers are not confronted by a barrage of messages regarding alcohol products on entry to the shop,” she wrote.

“Some supermarkets have recently moved their alcohol lines right up to the front of the store, where fresh fruit and vegetables used to be.”

But her plea appears unlikely to result in any voluntary changes, with identical letters from Richmond Pak 'n Save and Nelson City New World saying they are going to wait until “the full impact of the alcohol bill is known”.

The letters signed by Richmond Pak 'n Save owner-operator Andrew Howard and Nelson City New World owner-operator Greg Guy said they would “accept and adhere to legislation that is applied”.

“The bulk of our liquor is already in one position within the store; however, the expenses and resources involved, should we need to move refrigeration units, are extensive and as a consequence we find it difficult to take a voluntary step in this direction until the full detail of the legislation is known,” it said.

Countdown national communications and public affairs manager Luke Schepen said Countdown accepted the Alcohol Reform Bill's intent of minimising alcohol-related harm, but designing and implementing new layouts for 161 stores nationwide was not an easy task.

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“Countdown has begun a nationwide assessment of our stores configuration, but believes it's premature to complete ad-hoc reconfigurations before we see the final working of the legislation,” he said.

Ms Street said she was disappointed in the supermarkets' response, and that they were not interested in self-regulation.

“I know that the Retailers Association and those involved in the hospitality industry have been keen to portray themselves as responsible business owners, and I don't want to call them [the supermarkets] irresponsible, but I thought they might have been able to act on their own volition and give their own industry some credibility in this area.

"Clearly, they're not prepared to self-regulate.”

Ms Street said alcohol would ideally be kept in discreet areas in supermarkets, with separate doors or entrances.

“You would have to make a special effort to go there; you can't be lured there by displays or heavy advertising that is in everybody's face. It certainly doesn't help people who are struggling with alcoholism,” she said.

Ms Street said she expected the Alcohol Reform Bill to come up for its second reading next week.

- Nelson

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