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The Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) has released a study looking at the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) that came into effect in 2018, on small businesses. It found that the prices of alcoholic drinks previously sold below 50 pence per unit have increased and retailers felt that the sales of those products most affected by MUP had reduced. Changes in the product ranges were found with retailers ceasing to stock products most affected by the implementation and instead introduced lower strength products or smaller container sizes.
The evaluation portfolio comprises several research studies that are undertaken to assess the impact of MUP as its impact on the alcoholic drinks industry in Scotland, changes in alcohol consumption, and changes in health and social harms. The researchers drew on Electronic Point of Sale data from 200 small retailers in Scotland, interviews with retailers and observations in 20 stores; a content analysis of UK-wide and Scottish-specific retail trade press; and five product case studies examining in detail the impact on significant alcoholic drink brands.
Clare Beeston, Public Health Intelligence Principal at Public Health Scotland said:
“Minimum Unit Pricing has the potential to improve Scotland’s relationship with alcohol and reduce the harm it causes, and these findings show an encouraging pattern of behaviour change emerging amongst small retailers and customers.”
“Furthermore, these findings from the small retailer setting support evidence gathered earlier in the MUP Evaluation that compliance with MUP amongst retailers is high and that MUP has had the most effect on the products previously sold well below 50ppu”.
Drinks previously sold below 50 pence either increased in price to be in line with MUP or retailers stopped selling them. The researchers observed the most considerable change amongst high-strength cider, which was typically priced below MUP. Interviews with retailers found that they took compliance seriously, and there were few observed instances of products priced below MUP in the retailer audit after implementation.
Several retailers reported that they had reduced or stopped stocking the products with the most substantial increases in price. They additionally suggested that customers had moved from higher- to lower-strength alcohol products, to alcohol products in smaller container sizes or to different products now regarded to offer better value at comparable prices.
The most common form of promotional activity used to attract customer attention by small retailers was price marking on the packaging, and a reduction in this activity was found after the implementation of MUP.
Retailers perception of the impact of MUP varied. While some felt that sales had declined, particularly amongst high-strength cider, others reported little change in sales overall. Several retailers described increased profit margins for some products making up for the lower volumes sold. Small business owners besides felt they were better able to compete with prices in supermarkets following the implementation. There were few descriptions of hostile customer reactions and an increase in theft—including no indication of a shift towards online or cross-border shopping