Proxy purchasing of alcohol on the rise

18th June, 2014 by Melita Kiely

Underage sales of alcohol may be declining as a result of the retail-led initiative Challenge 25, but proxy purchasing is on the rise, a new report shows.


Retailers are helping reduce underages sales of alcohol, but youngsters are turning to parents instead

Challenge 25, a voluntary scheme, was introduced in the UK in 2006 to combat the high rates of underage sales of alcohol in UK supermarkets and requires anyone over the age of 18 who looks younger than 25 to produce a valid form of ID when buying alcohol.

The Rising to the Challenge report, compiled by the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group (RASG), which administers the scheme, showed that while retailers were helping to reduce underage sales of alcohol, reporting that only 4% of underage consumers would try to purchase alcohol from a supermarket.

However, proxy purchasing – when parents or other adults purchase alcohol on behalf of children – remains a problem with 74% of underage consumers admitting they would attempt to obtain alcohol from their parents.

Nick Grant, outgoing chairman of the RASG, said: “Retailers have invested a significant amount of time and resources into ensuring Challenge 25 is a success; including effective training for staff, clear signage and the universal application across all of our stores.

“So it is pleasing to see the positive progress that has been made in driving down underage alcohol sales through its adoption.”

Since its introduction, Challenge 25 has resulted in 11 million people being challenged to provide ID, including 75% of 18-24-year-olds and the number of young people drinking in the last week to fall by 18%, and by as much as 24% among 18-24-year-olds.

On-going challenges

The report also highlighted on-going challenge for retailers including a lack of universality for the scheme, including the lower threshold of Challenge 21 still operating in the on-trade and independent store.

It also revealed 65% of shop workers had been threatened with physical and verbal abuse for asking for ID.

“Tackling underage sales of alcohol is a key priority for the industry and this report demonstrates good progress is being made thanks to Challenge 25,” commented Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. “However, as alcohol has become increasingly difficult for young people to buy directly, there has been a worrying increase in proxy purchasing.

“More needs to be done in partnership with Government, schools and others to tackle this growing problem as it is an issue that retailers are unable to tackle on their own.”

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