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Supermarkets respond to Tesco challenge

UK supermarkets are gearing up to tackle alcohol retail regulations in the wake of recent comments from Tesco.

The retail giant sparked the debate last week by announcing it wanted to work with the government to reduce alcohol abuse and underage drinking.

Other supermarkets have yet to form a coherent stance on the matter, with many issuing varying responses.

Asda, the country’s second largest supermarket, announced several measures today to promote responsible drinking, including banning sales of alcohol after midnight in town centre stores and threatening underage drinkers with prosecution.

Contrary to Tesco, however, Asda says it backs voluntary measures over legislation.

‘We believe our proposals can be easily adopted by the entire retail industry immediately, and will go a long way towards tackling the issue without the need for further legislation or delay,’ said Asda boss Andy Bond.

Morrisons joined the fray last week but stopped short of proposing any new measures.

‘Morrisons would encourage further discussions to create a safe environment in which retailers and manufacturers could begin to address all the concerns relating to anti-social drinking,’ a company spokesman told on-licence magazine the Morning Advertiser.

A spokesperson from the Co-operative said the group had ‘worked closely’ with the government on the issues of alcohol abuse and would ‘welcome the opportunity to contribute to a wider discussion about the role of pricing and promotion’.

All supermarkets have been criticised for selling alcohol at a loss. In some cases, lager can be bought for less than the price of a bottle of water.

Waitrose, however, denied this was the case in its stores.

‘We do not sell any alcohol below cost price, neither do we offer buy-one-get-one-free offers on alcohol,’ said company spokeswoman Nathalie Heath.

Waitrose said it welcomed ‘any moves by the industry in this area’.

Sainsbury’s, the UK’s third biggest supermarket, has yet to comment on the issue.

The developments follow a meeting hosted by the prime minister, the home secretary and the culture secretary in November to tackle problem drinking.

According to 10 Downing Street, the prime minister challenged alcohol producers and retailers to participate in solving the issue.

Written by Jo Iivonen, and Oliver Styles

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