By Andrew Starke
Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) executive director, Jeff Rogut, has defended his organsiation’s push to be allowed to sell alcohol.
Earlier this week, convenience stores asked the Productivity Commission to consider a proposal for alcohol sales, claiming their profits are being eroded by rising electricity bills, labour costs and competition from supermarkets.
Caltex Starmarts, 7-Elevens and BP shops are among the stores represented.
Rogut said it was a critical time for the industry and selling alcohol could provide a competitive edge.
“Convenience stores in many parts of the world can and do responsibly sell alcohol products in their stores,” he said.
“In Australia the liquor industry is dominated by the major supermarkets with as much as a 58 percent share of a $16billion category.
“We see a competitive opportunity for convenience stores to participate in this category as well as a convenience opportunity for customers.”
Underpinning the association’s submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into the retail industry is the claim that the sale of alcohol will help convenience stores compete with supermarket chains.
“The major supermarket chains continually announce expansion plans, and people complain about a lack of competitive tension in retail generally,” he said.
“The convenience industry can offer customers a choice even if it is on a limited range of products.”
Rogut added that members were able to responsibly sell age restricted products such as cigarettes and tobacco and were therefore able do the same with alcohol.
“While we acknowledge the health issues, the fact remains that there are already drive through bottle shops trading until midnight, and even later, in many areas,” he said.
“We are not advocating 24 hour alcohol sales and we would trade within the applicable regulatory frameworks.
“What we are seeking is a level playing field at a time when difficult retail trading conditions, high overheads and the increased dominance of the major supermarket chains is impacting many small businesses around the country.
“We are not advocating 24 hour access to alcohol and the industry will work with authorities on trading hour regulations as well as appropriate locations.”