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Thursday, 3rd March 2011

UK: Out of the way? Alcohol displays in supermarkets

Sales of alcoholic drinks in supermarkets are on the rise in the UK, fuelled by heavy discounts and longer licensing hours. Alcohol is now more widely available than ever in the off-trade. It is often found on shelves next to groceries such as bread and milk, and may be cheaper than bottled water. 70% of respondents to an Alcohol Concern survey of 1,000 shoppers in 2010 expressed support for alcohol displayed in stores to be restricted to a single area of the premises. This paper looks in more detail at the issue of alcohol and supermarkets, and makes recommendations for action.

Supermarkets have been able to obtain licenses to sell alcohol in England and Wales since the early 1960s. Sainsbury’s was granted a licence in 1962, with others soon following. Over recent decades, sales from supermarkets (and off-licenses) have steadily increased and now account for nearly half of all alcohol sold. Moreover, since the introduction of 24-hour licensing laws in 2005, the number of supermarkets and stores with permission to sell alcohol around the clock has increased significantly, up 27% between 2008 and 2010.

Alongside this, overall consumption levels have been rising in England and Wales since the Second World War and it is widely accepted that increased consumption is directly associated with the growing affordability of alcohol. In 2007, alcohol was 75% more affordable than in 1980, relative to average household income. Supermarkets, in particular, have been heavily criticised for selling discounted alcohol and some supermarkets have admitted to selling drinks below cost (i.e. less than the wholesale price) to increase sales.

+ Direct link to document (PDF; 240 KB)



Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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