‘Tis the season to be merry?
With the Christmas trading period fast approaching, many retailers will be reviewing options for maximising revenue during this time.
A popular seasonal revenue stream is the sale of alcoholic gifts to be enjoyed at home. These gifts can range from speciality beers through to premium spirits and liqueurs. It can also include liquor confectionery (which contain levels of alcohol that exceed the prescribed limit). The products may be sold individually or as part of a set, for example within a Christmas hamper.
The sale of alcohol, both for consumption on and off premises, is a licensable activity as defined and regulated by the Licensing Act 2003 (“the Act”). Consequently, in order to sell alcohol lawfully a Premises Licence will normally be required and this will necessitate pursuing an application with the relevant local licensing authority.
Whilst in our experience licensing authorities are often supportive of applications by retailers seeking to sell high end alcoholic products, an early dialogue with the local authority is often necessary to tackle specific concerns they may have. Concerns and other practical issues that have arisen include:
- Ensuring the correct area is licensed – the activity that is regulated by the Act is the sale of alcohol. Therefore, it would normally be sufficient to licence the till areas within the store rather than anywhere that the products may be displayed. However, in our view it is better to seek to licence the entire store footprint if possible as this provides greater flexibility and also enables till positions to be moved without needing to vary the licence at a later stage.
- Keeping alcoholic products away from entrance points – a concern that frequently arises relates to the location of the alcoholic products. Retailers want to maximise sales and may wish to place products close to points of access so as to increase exposure. However, placing alcoholic products close to an entrance point can create a higher risk of crime and disorder (one of the four licensing objectives under the Act) and therefore a careful balance needs to be struck.
- Ensuring responsible selling – whilst it is more commonly associated with off-licences, the sale of alcohol to those under the legal age limit is an issue that any retailer of alcoholic products will need to address. Ways we have advised clients to address this have included affixing notices to all till points advising that sales will not take place to people under the age of 18 and using bespoke barcodes which, when scanned, alert the cashier to ensure the person attempting to purchase the product is, for example, over 21 years old.
- Training – as the peak times for the sale of alcohol usually coincide with periods when there is a greater use of seasonal staff, ensuring that the sale of alcoholic products is properly supervised can often be a concern. Licensing authorities may therefore press for a condition that all staff receive training on the responsible sale of alcoholic products and require the retailer to ensure all staff sign a form to confirm that they are aware of this policy.
An alternative for some retailers to obtaining a Premises Licence may be to obtain a Temporary Event Notice (“TEN”). This is a temporary permission to undertake regulated activities and this can include the sale of alcohol. However, there are a number of restrictions on TENs that generally make them unsuitable for large retailers. For example, they are designed for small scale events attracting no more than 500 people and can last for no more than 168 hours.