Published:  20 August, 2010

Raising the bar in responsible retailing Given the mud often thrown at the industry, itís perhaps not surprising we are so unaccustomed to celebrating praise.

Against a backdrop of more headlines about minimum pricing as a tool to mend broken Britain, two independent bodies have given the industry a well-deserved round of applause for its efforts in areas which have historically been major points of contention.

Alcohol marketing has been one of the hottest potatoes suppliers have had to grapple with in the past decade, as half of the viewing public seemed to morph into Mary Whitehouse. I donít think anyone can deny there were examples of ads that pushed the boundaries too far, and brand owners who needed reigning in. The Advertising Standards Authority tightened its rules in 2005, producing a set of workable guidelines that challenged marketersí creativity and necessitated new ways of thinking. The industry has embraced the changes and the ASA has just delivered the best report to date on supplier compliance.

Scoring a rating of 99.7%, just missing full marks because of one ad deemed to breach the code, is a major achievement and positive evidence of how far the trade has come since the days of lager being licked off taps and people following beery bears.

The same is true when it comes to retailersí attitudes to selling these products, as a second report, by Serve Legal, proves. For the first half of the year, the off-trade has demonstrated a marked improvement in test-purchase cases Ė 75% of outlets visited by mystery shoppers checked for ID, compared to 70% in 2009.

Scotland and London lead the charge, with the Midlands showing it needs to up its game. But overall, while there is obviously room for improvement, evidence that more retailers are taking responsibility for their role in the cycle of alcohol use is to be applauded and shows, yet again, that the vast majority are beacons of best practice.

Through our own Responsible Drinks Retailing Awards, which launch again this week, OLN aims to keep these issues at the forefront of the tradeís mind while reminding key influencers, from policy makers and senior police to local authorities, of the vital work that is being undertaken voluntarily.

Itís been seven years since we first introduced the awards, run jointly with our sister on-trade magazine, the Morning Advertiser, and over that time, there have been some significant leaps in how the trade interprets its responsibilities.

By giving air space to these kinds of positives, we hope to help raise the bar and recognise retailers going the extra mile to dispel the negative myths often perpetuated about the trade.

Donít miss your chance to be in the limelight Ė see page 13 for details of how to enter this year and demonstrate the contribution youíre making to the cause.

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