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May 25, 2010

Two of the UK's biggest retailers have revealed opposing views on the controversial subject of minimum pricing for alcohol.

While Tesco became the first major UK retailer to support the new coalition government's commitment to ban the sale of alcohol below cost, Sainsbury's said introducing a minimum price would "unfairly penalise" its customer base.

Asda supports Tesco's stance, as does Waitrose.

Tesco said it acted because a survey of customers revealed almost 70% believed excessive drinking was one of the most serious issues facing the country today.

However, a spokesman for Sainsbury's told Harpers Wine & Spirit: "There have been many attempts over the last couple of years to define the term 'below cost'.

"We do not sell alcohol below duty plus VAT, which is the most commonly-used term to define below cost.

"We believe that introducing a minimum price for alcohol would unfairly penalise our shoppers, the vast majority of whom buy alcohol as part of their weekly shop and drink responsibly in their own homes.

"Furthermore, there is no reliable evidence that minimum pricing would tackle the problem of binge drinking."

Waitrose spokesman Jess Hughes said: "We welcome the government's proposals as a constructive approach to encouraging customers to drink more responsibly.

"We fundamentally believe that changes to pricing should be accompanied by a long-term approach to customer education."