Since October 1, ‘location’ has gained a particular significance for the Scottish licensed trade.
The Alcohol Act has brought with it some extremely strict controls on the location of promotions within, and in the vicinity of, off-sales, which mean the retailer must give careful consideration to their location.
Promotions relating to alcohol for sale on the premises for consumption off the premises must be located in the authorised alcohol area within a store and not within the vicinity, unless they fall within one of two exceptions.
If the product on display is a branded non-alcoholic product, it is not considered a drinks promotion and you are free to locate it anywhere in your store.
This should be simple enough but the draftsman’s definition of ‘branded non-alcoholic product’ leaves a lot of room for confusion.
A branded non-alcoholic product is described as a product ‘which bears the name or image of an alcoholic product or is an image of an alcoholic product’.
Nowhere in this definition do we see the word ‘logo’. Is a Bacardi key ring which features the bat symbol alone a branded non-alcoholic product? What about a pint glass with a Tennent’s ‘T’ etched on it?
The definition would suggest not.
Neither of these products features the name of the alcoholic product or an image of the product – they both feature the logos of well known brands.
By simply using the word logo, one of the most commonly recognised tools of the marketing trade, the government could have avoided any debate.
A product which featured the logo of an alcoholic drink or brand could very simply have been brought within the definition.
Instead, the definition is unclear and, like so many of the Alcohol Act provisions, leaves the trade wondering exactly what it can and cannot do.
If a product does fit within the definition of a branded non-alcoholic product, you are permitted to display it anywhere in your premises, however you can only do so if the product is for sale. If it is not for sale then you must locate it within the alcohol area.
The definition of ‘branded non-alcoholic product’ leaves a lot of room for confusion.
If, for example, a drinks company supplied you with free mini footballs featuring the name of an alcoholic product to distribute to customers during the World Cup, you can only display this merchandise in the authorised alcohol area.
As the products are not for sale and the exception does not apply, the inference is that they would constitute a drinks promotion, which must be located within the alcohol area.
The second class of products permitted outwith the alcohol display areas and within the vicinity are newspapers, magazines and other publications which are for sale on the premises or, if they are not for sale, do not relate only or primarily to alcohol.
Newspapers and magazines are self explanatory but the definition of other publications has resulted in considerable head scratching.
I am of the view that it means publications in the nature of newspapers and magazines but the government guidance also includes promotional leaflets.
If leaflets are regarded as publications they must be displayed and if they are free they must not relate only or primarily to alcohol. The guidance suggests the test will be met if the surface area devoted to alcohol is less than 50%.
If leaflets are not displayed but are distributed to customers entering a store you may fall foul of the rules.
As distribution of leaflets in the vicinity would not meet the ‘display’ criteria, the government is proposing further regulations to allow stores to carry out mail shots.
When it comes to promotions the can and cannots are far from clear, and ambiguous definitions only add to the confusion.
The very definition of a drinks promotion – ‘any activity which promotes or seeks to promote the buying of any alcohol’– is in fact still uncertain.
As the Alcohol Act beds in I am sure the boundaries will be tested and, in time, the fog will lift.
In the meantime, when placing what could be considered promotional material or products in your store, always remember the golden rule, it is all about location.