Trade braced for 2013 challenge

The drinks trade will soldier on doggedly through increasingly hostile market conditions in 2013, according to an exclusive OLN survey of hundreds of drinks retailers.

We asked 248 independent retailers and 20 buyers at leading supermarkets and chains to predict how 2013 will compare to 2012 and found the trade split.

The survey revealed 26.3% believe it will be an improvement, 44.7% think it will be about the same and 29% think it will be worse.

When asked what one thing would make life easier in 2013, a third of drinks retailers said a favourable change in government policy on alcohol duty.

The government was also urged to rethink business rates, as 14.2% said these were threatening their livelihood, while 16.1% called for tougher action against duty fraudsters.

Seventeen per cent of retailers told OLN a minimum unit price on alcohol would be the best thing that could happen for their businesses – but none of these were multiples.

One independent said: “Action needs to be taken to stop supermarkets selling below cost. Minimum unit pricing on alcohol would level the playing field. We would be able to compete with supermarkets.”

Among the multiples, half said 2012 has been worse than 2011, while just a quarter said it has been better. Forty per cent believe 2013 will be worse than 2012, compared with 35% who said it will be better.

Meanwhile 32% of the independents we surveyed said 2012 was worse than 2011. Four in ten said 2012 has been the same as 2011, while 28% said it has been better. They blamed the lack of any decent summer weather and multiples offering cheap deals for their poor performance.

One said: “We have tried many things in our village off-licence, but they don’t make much of a difference as we are unable to complete with supermarkets.

“Our customers leave the village to do their Christmas shopping at supermarkets – we are just a last resort.”

A quarter of independents believe 2013 will be better than 2012, but 28% said it will be worse – while 46% believe things will remain equally difficult.

One said: “I expect the same result for 2013, however the government has it within its means to correct the damage done by grocers killing the independent drinks trade with offers.”

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