Thursday 7 February 2013

Minimum Alcohol Pricing Folly: Goodbye Clubcard And Nectar Points

The more one looks into the implications of minimum alcohol pricing - and I've only just started - the more of a sinister minefield it turns out to be.

By minefield, I mean a legislative nightmare as well as unnecessary costs to small businesses (odd that; aren't Tories supposed to like them?). For example, signage will be required; stock may have to be removed from sale and renegotiated on price with suppliers (more on that another time); and many products will cease to be profitable, not only for the retailer, but for the producer too. This will inevitably lead to an increase in your shopping bill somewhere along the line, whether booze is bought or not.

Current advice from retail bodies is to err on the side of caution or face crippling fines. And that's where you come in because, if you buy drink responsibly, you will still lose out.

When you go to Tesco, Sainsbo, whatever, do you get loyalty card points on tobacco? No, course not, it's bad for you, right, so it's banned. Well, hey presto! With minimum alcohol pricing, this is exactly the result that is likely to happen for alcohol too.

Firstly, if you buy a minimum alcohol priced bottle of wine for around £4.20, those four Clubcard/Nectar points you earn will represent a subsequent value, however small. If you were then to redeem that value, the saving technically drops the cost of your bottle below the minimum price. It is most certainly the end of vouchers before Valentine's Day offering 50 bonus points if you buy a bottle of Baileys, that's for sure.

There is also the issue of saving vouchers or points up for other special occasions. If, like me, you hoard your rewards for a big blow out at Christmas, you could end up buying - say - £100 worth of alcohol and redeeming vouchers/points for £80, for example. That means you are buying alcohol - any alcohol - well beneath the minimum price.

It's a grey area, but retailer associations are advising that the best course is to not award loyalty bonuses to purchases of alcohol at all. Why devise an complicated system to get round the problem when it is easier just to exclude alcohol entirely, eh?

Tesco, of course, are 100% behind minimum pricing so will happily deprive you of your Clubcard points. Others will almost be, I dunno, "nudged" into it by people who have been asking for exactly that for a long time.
Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said stopping UK supermarkets offering loyalty points would at least send the "right message". 
"Most alcohol bought for consumption is from supermarkets. There is a need to send the right message on drinking behaviour by not allowing 'rewards' for buying alcohol."
Minimum alcohol pricing is touted as tackling irresponsible drinkers but - as a sage website bluntly asks - why should responsible drinkers pay more?

Of course, if the true plan is to move towards a policy of denormalisation of alcohol, it's just dandy.


Curmudgeon said...

Well, if they scrap points on alcohol my Clubcard goes straight in the bin...

barnacle bill said...

I thought nuLabor under B-Lair and the Fruitcake frae Kirkcaldy were into twisted legislation.
However, it appears Cast Iron wagged by his Lib/dem tail is far exceeding anything nuLabor came up with.

Legiron said...

Locally, Tesco seem to have already implemented minimum pricing. Which isn't a clever move because Morrison's (less than a mile away) haven't. So Morrison's are now cheaper for whisky by a large margin. Especially with the lower-cost blends, but also, more and more, with the good malts.

Morrison's don't have a loyalty card to track your buying habits either.

Interestingly, all that data that used to be available on individual drinking habits through the loyalty card system will suddenly stop. Why bother presenting your card when you're not going to get any points?

Anyway, tomorrow night, after work, I visit Lidl for their 12-year-old Speyside single malt at £17.95. I think I might start to lay in a stock.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Tesco are awful on prices unless in the run-up to festivals, sports events, Christmas etc.

nicholas.ashley1 said...

Why are they getting so worked up? It's illegal under EU law. they should be kicking up a stink instead of capitulating. Idiot retailers.

Curmudgeon said...

Alcohol producers have been kicking up a stink. However Tesco aren't bothered as it will slightly improve their margins and insulate them from cut-throat price competition.

Curmudgeon said...

I divide my regular supermarket shopping between Tesco and Morrisons. Morrisons are much better for reliable low prices on drinks, while Tesco are far more dependent on temporary offers. However some of the offers are very attractive.