Two for one… it’s no bargain!

We’re used to thinking about excessive drinking in licensed venues, including pubs and clubs, and the harms caused, especially drunkenness, violence and drink driving. Late trading hours, the size and capacity and design of venues — as well their density in a given location — help drive these problems. They’re all important.

But do we properly consider the role of packaged liquor premises and the impact they have in our communities?

We know that 70% of all alcohol is purchased from off licence premises, so how many bottle shops do you think are in Australia?

The ALSA state they have 3,000 members, and it was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that in 2014 that NSW alone has 2,300 bottle shops.

Alcohol is estimated to be involved in up to half of partner violence in Australia and 73% of partner physical assaults. So do you know about controls that are put in place in relation to the bottle shops in your community?

Recent research conducted by Jon Wardle from the University of Technology in Sydney found that liquor licensing laws for on- and off-license premises are not the same. He asserts the promotional advertising in the form of “bundling” that bottle shops offer customers would not be allowed on licence premises, and that the liquor licensing laws need to be updated.

“Bundling” is when customers are offered multiple items when they purchase one of a kind, such as the “two-for-one” deals.

Point of sale promotions, along with social media strategies, lead the new techniques that the alcohol industry is now employing. While newspaper advertising is unmistakably ‘in your face’, the more subtle approach of two-for-one deals at point of checkout or through shopper dockets, encourages consumption by making alcohol extremely cheap. And we know that when the price of alcohol comes down people will purchase and consume more alcohol. Few people can resist what they see as a bargain.

As Sandra Jones and Lance Barrie point out in a 2010 paper, “These marketers are exploiting activities such as providing price promotions, gift-with-purchase incentives, as well as bulk-purchase incentives, all of which can be seen as encouraging sales figures rather than brand loyalty or development.”

Their paper concluded that these promotions were also encouraging young people to purchase alcohol and further work is needed to be done to regulate these promotions.

When we consider the extensive harms alcohol causes in our communities, cheap alcohol comes at a very heavy price. And we all pay the price, whether we buy alcohol or not.

This is an obvious matter for reform when state governments review their liquor licensing laws. But why wait? GrogWatch readers can take a proactive stance and point out to their state MPs that on this matter packaged-liquor premises should be subject to the same rule on-premises venues.