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- Issue 81: April 2009
- Issue 80: March 2009
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- Issue 78: December 2008
- Issue 77: November 2008
- Issue 76: October 2008
- Issue 75: September 2008
- Issue 74: August 2008
- Issue 73: July 2008
- Issue 72: June 2008

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No Care, no Responsibility in Todayís Retail World

Chris Wright
Dispensary Systems Perspective

Issue 74: August 2008
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The two “Evils” of society, being alcohol and drugs, have long been subject to a range of conditions when sold legally.
As such, Pharmacy regulations and liquor licensing law have much in common.
The key word in the sale and provision of liquor is “Supply”, whereas in the World of Pharmacy, “Dispense” reigns supreme.
Both of course must be conducted in an appropriate manner, in accordance with the relevant regulations.
Victoria has recently introduced a 2am “lockout” in an attempt to curb the growing problem of violence amongst young people, caused by over-indulgence.
As industry, regulators, retailers and do-gooder groups provide serious lip-service on how best to arrest the problem rather than arrest the fools that think they can go toe to toe with Danny Green while being fizzed up at 3am, plenty of warm and fuzzy publicity is coming from the big retailers and manufacturers.
 

A recent article in the Melbourne Herald Sun on the Friday 4th July (how appropriate) just shows how we look at these issues from the wrong perspective. 
In the article concerned, Rob Murray, the CEO of Lion Nathan suggests;“Responsibility must lie primarily with the individual”
Steve Greentree, Woolworth’s Liquor Group Chief Executive declares;“Alcohol is a restricted product that is manufactured, sold and consumed within a legal framework.
As a retailer, we have a responsibility to uphold our part of the framework”
Mick McMahon, Coles Liquor General Manager, shared the following pearl:

“As retailers, we do have a responsibility to ensure that we sell alcohol products responsibly, which I certainly believe we do”.

And Trevor Hoy, Foster’s Group Ltd Chief Executive suggested:
“Too many Australians save up their drinking for one big binge”
Phew!
Are we expected to shift “sole” responsibility to the poor old (and young) drinker?

A couple of points these most learned gentlemen omitted to share with the readers of the Herald Sun on the 4th of July are that a couple of major factors have exacerbated this problem and will continue to do so, and both are to do with “commercial reality”, to use a well hackneyed expression much loved by the “suit’s”.

Firstly, liquor licences have multiplied like rabbits since they were thrown about like confetti as a consequence of the Liquor Control Act (Victoria) 1997.
Some 8000 liquor licenses have now been issued in this “free-for-all” that has created a booze driven haze that is completely out of control.

This has created enormous pressure on many licensees who foolishly thought they had leased a Gold mine with a stunning rich vein rather than expensive commercial premises with a snarling rich landlord.
The pressure to keep clientele is ever present so nobody is going to be in a hurry to stop service to a young bloke throwing down fluffy ducks at the same speed as his WRX parked out the front.
Of course it is no surprise that many licensed premises are owned by companies associated with the manufacturer of the said fluffy ducks.
No, there is nothing wrong with this………after all, Drug Companies own Pharmacies and Oil Companies own Service Stations………Brewers have every right to own Pubs.

The problem is; responsibility is not being apportioned in a balanced manner.

Renegade licensees that continue to fill patrons with booze at inflated prices to subsidise so-called ‘A” list patrons who are “B” list sports “Stars” clutching drink cards need to have their license put through the shredder……..permanently.

At the very least, licensees must be forced to monitor the drinking of patrons in compliance with licensing law.
If that means the draconian notion of breath-testing suspect patrons, so be it. It’s about time the blowtorch heads in the direction of the licensee.

Secondly, the comments made by the doyens of booze on the 4th of July made have had more impact if it wasn’t for the fact that on that very day in the same paper a range of “Specials” were offered.

1. Liquorland   30% off red wine when you buy 6 or more bottles.
VB 30 pack- 2 for $75 -  More than 20% off.
2. BWS VB or MB. 2 for $64.
Wine range. 3 for $18
Jim Bean 10 pack. 2 for $58
Carlton Cold (24) 2 for $58
3. Safeway 6 bottles of wine @ $12.58 each ($13.97 single purchase)

All of the above “Specials” are geared towards bulk purchases.
It is very arguable that many would not see this type of commercial activity as being “responsible” with regard to the sale and supply of booze.

Is this not the perfect precursor to binge drinking?

The reasoning appears to be simple………….these retailers want more money from customers when they make a purchase, and the social cost appears to be inconsequential.

We have experienced similar behaviour in Pharmacy.
Heavily discounted Panamax in Dump Bins could never be described as being “responsible”, particularly given its sad status as the “drug of choice” amongst our detached young.
Although I’m pleased to report the practice of flogging Panamax out of Dump Bins appears to be in decline.

Yes, kids are capable of being dills, as any parent that has suffered the torment of raising their children through their teens will testify.
But they are getting a raw deal here………it’s high time those people able to make decisions started making the right ones.
A good stating point would be for retailers to adopt a pricing strategy that does not involve bulk purchase driven by price.
Smaller quantities at a lesser discount would seem to be more responsible. But then, this would seem to be in conflict with a policy that parallels Banks:
“We want your business, we just don’t want you in here all the time”.

The State Government flexes muscle with regard to the 2am lockout, yet it appears to provide tacit support to binge drinking by making no comment about advertising strategies that are clearly designed to encourage sales of a size that have no relevance to immediacy.
Those of us in possession of a more cynical approach to the behaviour of government may suggest their apparent ambivalence has more to do with the fiscal enjoyment realised on the tax collected on multiple sales, rather than any concern that those multiple sales may be a contributing factor to binge drinking.

Pharmacy items are regarded as not being “items of commerce”, despite the questionable sales practices of some.
This encourages the question of whether alcohol should have a more severe retail protocol.
In Victoria, not nearly enough responsibility is being assumed by those that should be made accountable.

Clearly, pharmacy and alcohol is strongly marketed towards the group described as the “lowest common denominator”.

This writer is certainly not a social commentator, but it seems to me that our free and just society is now encumbered by the overwhelming need by big business and Government to enrich themselves at the cost of us poor minions.
We are breeding an underclass by virtue of the refusal of Government, both Federal and State to provide a balanced society.
The bureaucratic “Spin” put out by Government is tiresome, to say the least

A case in point is the price of petrol in the US, which is currently $4.08 a gal. This is around 90cents per litre in our language.
Why?
When Fosamax is still a private prescription unless broken bones are evident serious questions need to be answered, and they need to answered by people that have a better understanding of health issues than those that manage the sale and supply of booze.

Chris Wright.  August 2008.


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