While there is no doubting that Minimum Unit Pricing has impacted the Scottish alcohol market, TRDP figures prove that it’s nowhere near the disaster proclaimed.

February 17, 2020
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Scottish Alcohol Sales Figures - What's Really Happening?

A second surge of reports surrounding the effect of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on Scottish alcohol sales has surfaced online. According to various sources, data published by NHS Health Scotland highlights a decrease (from 7.4 to 7.1 litres) in off-trade alcohol sales during the first 12-months following the introduction of MUP.

However, figures from the TRDP database counteract claims that overall sales have been affected. While Scotland’s controversial law – setting a minimum of 50p per unit – has affected previous trends, it’s far from the sales disaster reported by the national press. Rather, the money is being spent in a reformed fashion and on different alcoholic beverages.

What They Are Saying About MUP

According to articles published during the week commencing 27th January, the overall volume of pure alcohol sold in the retail sector fell by 3.6%. Sales of spirits fell by 3.8%, while purchases of beer dipped 1.1%.

The biggest casualty was apparently felt with the sale of cider per adult, which fell by 18.6%. This relatively high rate of decline is attributed to cider’s price jump in correlation to alcoholic content per bottle. Under Scotland’s MUP, the cost of a 3-litre purchase of ‘super-strength’ Frosty Jack’s (abv 7.5%) augmented three-fold to £11.25. Equally, a 2-litre bottle of Strongbow (abv 5%) increased from £3.49 to £5.

Current reports are quick to call attention towards contrasting figures from England & Wales, where sales in stores witnessed an increase in pure alcohol sales throughout the same time frame to the sum of 6.5-litres; up from 6.3-litres Year-on-Year.

Boiled down, researchers are claiming the difference in figures remains a direct result of the Scottish Government’s MUP implementation. Fortified wine was the only drink category in Scotland to enjoy any growth post-MUP.

Lucie Giles, public health intelligence advisor at NHS Health Scotland, said: “This is the first time we have been able to analyse sales data covering the full year following the introduction of MUP, and it is encouraging that off-trade alcohol sales fell in Scotland following its implementation.”

“The analysis of per adult sales data in the North East and North West of England did not provide evidence of substantial cross-border purchasing.”

What We Are Saying About MUP

While there is no doubting that Minimum Unit Pricing has impacted the Scottish alcohol market, TRDP figures indicate that it’s nowhere near the disaster for alcohol purveyors that is being claimed. The published articles refer to the total and off-trade volume in litres per adult – ie population, not shopper. This measure is linked, but not directly comparable, with volume sales through retail.

In these regards, our figures outline a pattern shift in the products procured within the alcohol sector. For starters, sales of Alcopops in Scotland skyrocketed, courtesy of an increase in cider prices. In essence, Alcopops – which remain cheaper due to less alcohol in line with MUP rules – have replaced cider products. Compared with England and Wales, sales  have increased dramatically. Rate on Sale (ROS) in an average store is  almost four times as high – averaging out at 249 across the last 24 month period. In terms of financial value, Scotland has averaged out at £667 per month, whereas the level in England resides at £231, and Wales at £148.

Compared to figures over the same time frame from England and Wales, the sales values for beer, spirits, alcopops, and wine are higher on Scottish soil.

Furthermore, as the unit and value rate of sale have increased across Scotland, therefore volume will also have risen. Most of the data for previous publications has come from supermarket chains, which have suffered most at the hands of MUP pricing. The price floor has eliminated any advantage previously held by larger stores. Prices rose across the board for cider (151%), whisky (40%), and beer (72%) when MUP came into effect, levelling the playing field. Smaller outlets could not have previously competed with deals offered by the likes of Tesco, Asda, and Morrisons, but now they can compete.

Basically – supermarkets may have been the source for research data, but C-stores are actually selling more alcohol, as prices are equal across the board. Shoppers no longer divert to their nearest supermarket in search of deals, as the local C-store can offer the same products for the same cost.

In a Nutshell…

Contrary to belief, the price hike hasn’t prevented customers from buying their preferred alcohol north of the border. As previously stated, shoppers are migrating towards their local shop. Sales volumes aren’t down. Rather, Scots are purely spending differently.

With pressure for the rest of Britain to implement this strategy, should England, Northern Ireland, and Wales follow suit, then southern c-stores could also benefit from minimum unit pricing.

For more information on Minimum Unit Pricing, get in touch with us here.

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