Supermarkets fear early shopper loss

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 10:05 29/03/2014

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Thousands of earlybird grocery shoppers could be forced to rethink their shopping habits and future supermarket developments could be thwarted if Hamilton's draft liquor policy is left unchanged.

Representatives from the country's two big supermarket chains - Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises - delivered the stark warning during submissions on the council's draft local alcohol policy yesterday.

The purpose of the policy is to establish how alcohol should be sold and supplied in Hamilton, including where and during what times.

One proposed change would see a two-hour fast forward on the time supermarkets and liquor stores can start selling alcohol.

Under the proposed policy, trading hours for off-licences will be restricted to 9am to 10pm.

Most supermarkets open at 7am or 8am.

Julie Daniels, legal counsel for Foodstuffs North Island, said restricting the morning trade hours of supermarkets would unfairly impact earlybird grocery shoppers who opted to do their weekly shop between 7am and 9am.

"We're not primarily concerned about missing out on the sale of alcohol between 7am and 9am but more concerned about the inconvenience that this causes for thousands of customers, your ratepayers, who choose to shop early in the day," Mrs Daniels said.

The sale of beer and wine during 7am and 9am represented less than one per cent of transactions.

Mrs Daniels said proposed restrictions on the location of off licences could also have unintended consequences because the council had failed to distinguish between supermarkets and bottle shops.

She said location restrictions could discourage the building of new supermarkets in the city if they were unable to provide for the sale of alcohol.

The draft policy proposes new off-licences will no longer be able to open beside schools or early childhood centres.

"We might start to spend millions of dollars on construction [of a new supermarket] and then meantime a kindy could move next door, something which is completely out of our control . . . and that would mean the new store couldn't get a liquor licence," Mrs Daniels said.

"We therefore may not make the further significant investment needed to develop and open a supermarket if there is uncertainty whether the new store will be able to obtain a liquor licence," she said.

Similarly, Progressive Enterprises spokeswoman Kate Porter said one of the major focuses of the council's policy was tackling the issue of youth binge drinking.

However analysis of purchasing patterns at the company's Hamilton's stores showed, between 7am and 9am, 18 to 25-year-olds were the less likely group to purchase alcohol.

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Ms Porter said proposed location restrictions for off licences could mean supermarkets were not located where communities needed them.

In contrast, Waikato District Health Board population health advisor Ross Henderson said the availability of alcohol was a major driver of alcohol-related harm.

Supermarkets sold the majority of off-licence alcohol and reducing alcohol-related harm could not happen without addressing the major sellers, Mr Henderson said.

The council's local alcohol policies were designed to reflect the needs and wishes of the community, not reinforce trading conditions for national chains.

Councillors will deliberate on submissions on April 11.

aaron.leaman@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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