By James Atkinson
Australia's convenience stores have called for regulators to break the supermarkets' stranglehold on liquor by allowing convenience stores to get in on the product category.
In its submission on Western Australia's Liquor Act review, the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) says there is "no credible reason" why convenience stores should not be permitted to sell alcohol products.
"As evidenced by the responsible sale of tobacco products, convenience store operators are entirely capable of the responsible retailing of alcohol and compliance with all regulations," AACS executive director Jeff Rogut says.
"The convenience store sector in the United States, Europe and South East Asia is permitted to sell alcohol products and this has proven an important revenue source for the sector, one Australian stores are missing out on."
Rogut says the two main supermarket chains have "successfully used the existing regulatory framework to dominate alcohol sales to a level that has become unsustainable".
"Reviewing legislation to permit convenience stores in Western Australia to sell packaged alcohol is one way to generate new revenue opportunities for small business and in some way correct the massive imbalance in market share enjoyed by the two major chains," he says.
He stresses that convenience stores are not seeking to compete directly with the traditional bottleshop or big-box liquor stores offering.
"We are in the convenience business and our offer would reflect this," he says.
Rogut proposes that convenience stores be subject to limits on the proportion of refrigerated shelf space and floor space devoted to liquor and maximum limits of packaged alcohol available for purchase per customer.
"This could be one six pack of beer per customer, or a limit of two bottles of wine per customer," he suggests.
Rogut says AACS recognises there is a "significant emotional hurdle" that needs to be overcome for legislative reform in this area to proceed.
"The review of the Liquor Control Act 1988 represents an opportunity for Western Australia to take a national leadership position on this important issue," he says.