MUP is a golden opportunity for us all

Antony Begley

Like most Scottish Government legislation that impacts directly on the local retailing sector, Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) met with a rather frosty reception when it was first announced.

Yet more nanny state-ism and pointless legislation that won’t actually achieve much other than providing the Government with some nice headlines for a few days about how they’re tackling societal issues head on. Except, of course, that they aren’t really. I don’t for the life of me see how MUP is going to make any difference to problem drinking. Working at our own Woodlands Local, I know who the problem drinkers are and I can tell you from first-hand experience that making Frosty Jack laughably expensive will not convert those shoppers to teetotalism, or even reduce their weekly alcohol unit intake.

“What should I buy now?” is a question I’ve heard on several occasions already and when it sinks in that there will be no such thing as super-cheap booze, they’ve quickly calculated how to get their fix. The net result is that they’ll spend more in the store and will have less money for things like food and toiletries.

Like I’ve said a thousand times before, it’s not possible to fix societal problems by simply making things expensive. People take drugs and drink too much because they are fundamentally unhappy or dissatisfied with their lives. But to fix societal problems takes literally generations and requires a huge shift in a whole range of policies. The Government doesn’t have generations, so it takes the easy route every time.

But on the flip side, MUP presents a once in a decade opportunity for retailers. Price parity with the supermarkets and discounters means they have lost their ace in the pack when it came to driving footfall. No cheap cases of beer or bottles of spirits means the supermarkets will have to find something else to drag shoppers to their store. And they won’t find that easy. They’ve already tried with the likes of confectionery and crisps, but they don’t work. The only thing that does it cheap booze. And now they don’t have that card to play.

So I would encourage all local retailers to go to town on talking to their shoppers – via social media, face to face or in-store – that we’re now the same price as the mults. Plus we chill our beers, wines, ciders and RTDs and we give you smile and a bit of banter while you’re in the store, and we’re just around the corner.

It’s a great opportunity but there’s work to be done to make sure we truly leverage it to the hilt.

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Antony Begley, Publishing Director