Shopkeepers at smaller stores have seen a varied response to 50p minimum unit pricing but believe it allows them to compete with bigger supermarkets, a study into the impact of the policy has found.
Some small retailers have said there has been little change to their sales of drinks most affected by the policy, while others have noticed a reduction or have just stopped stocking the products.
Where drinks such as high-strength cider had their price increased due to the policy, shopkeepers told a Stirling University study that increased profit margin often compensated for any reduced sales.
The research into the policy’s impact on small Scottish retailers also found fewer shops prominently displaying the price on the packaging on the most-affected products.
But shopkeepers told researchers that they feel “better able to compete with prices in supermarkets”, according to Martine Stead, from the University of Stirling.
The deputy director at the Institute for Social Marketing and Health said the vast majority of small stores implemented the policy when it came into force in May 2018 “with little or no adverse effect on small businesses”.
She added: “Retailers reported that they had reduced or stopped stocking some products which had seen particularly large increases in price after the implementation of minimum unit pricing, such as larger bottles of strong ciders.
“Overall we observed the most change amongst the high-strength cider and perry categories, which had typically been priced below minimum unit pricing.
“During the interviews, small retailers reported some changes in purchasing patterns, such as customers moving from higher to lower strength alcohol products, to products in smaller containers or to products perceived to offer better value now they were sold at similar prices.”
Responding to the evaluation, Scotland’s public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “I welcome this sixth report in the comprehensive evaluation of Scotland’s world-leading alcohol minimum unit pricing policy which shows that small retailers feel sales of those drinks most affected by minimum unit pricing have fallen.
“This follows a report in June last year which showed a 3% decrease in the volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in the off-trade in Scotland in 2018.
“In addition, this latest report confirms high compliance with minimum unit pricing amongst small convenience store retailers.
“The positive findings show these retailers have experienced little or no adverse effects from the introduction of minimum unit pricing, with many reporting they can now compete with supermarkets on price.”
Clare Beeston, from Public Health Scotland, said: “Minimum unit pricing has the potential to improve Scotland’s relationship with alcohol and reduce the harm it causes, and these findings show an encouraging pattern of behaviour change emerging amongst small retailers and customers.
“Furthermore, these findings from the small retailer setting support evidence gathered earlier in the minimum unit pricing evaluation that compliance amongst retailers is high, and that minimum unit pricing has had the most effect on the products previously sold well below 50p per unit.”