Liquor Industry unites for review of WA liquor retail limits

08 April, 2020 by Deborah Jackson

The temporary liquor restrictions that have been trialled in Western Australia will come under review today and the liquor industry is urging the WA Government to consider alignment to national levels.

The Liquor Stores Association (LSA WA) and Retail Drinks Australia are recommending for the WA liquor restrictions to be brought into line with the voluntary national initiative adopted by Retail Drinks on 31 March.

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As a part of Retail Drinks’ submission to the WA Government it was highlighted that the WA limits as they are currently imposed are too complicated for both retail team members and consumers to calculate, and don’t reflect usual ordering patterns.

“The 2.25 litre limit on wines is three standard 750 ml bottles. However, cask wine packaging comes in two, three, four or five litre formats, so all retailers in WA are unable to retail cask wines beyond the two litre size. This means four and five litre cask 
wine cannot be sold and stocks will need to be destroyed if these restrictions are not lifted. This is unnecessary wastage in a time of crisis.

“Further, the restriction on beer, cider and premix is 11.25 litres, which is a carton (24 bottles) of drinks in the 500ml size. However, the majority of beer cases are made up of 330ml bottles or cans, and one case makes up 7920 mml, which means many customers will look at adding bottles to this purchase to ‘use up’ the entire limit. Retail team members cannot possibly be expected to calculate these limits without increasing transaction time, contrary to social distancing and certainly contrary to a good customer experience.”

Another factor that both LSA WA and Retail Drinks are urging the WA Government to consider is that the current restrictions are directly disadvantaging WA businesses compared to those that are being taken up in other states and territories.

“In their current form, the WA Government’s alcohol purchasing restrictions clearly discriminate against Western Australian businesses and benefit their interstate competitors,” says LSA WA CEO, Peter Peck.

“While Western Australian businesses are required to comply with the WA limits, their interstate competitors can continue to sell higher quantities of alcohol to Western Australian customers.”

Peck added that the restrictions are creating a ripple effect across the industry, particularly with wineries, breweries and distilleries that are already suffering from the lack of tourism.

“[They] need to maximise their ability to sell through local WA liquor retailers,” said Peck.

Retail Drinks CEO, Julie Ryan, says that the voluntary initiative of Retail Drinks members to implement a consistent national scheme of alcohol purchase restrictions was developed with considerable data into the types of purchasing quantities that would prevent panic buying but would reduce the likelihood of outlet shopping.

“The reality of any purchasing limits is that a person could easily travel to a number of liquor outlets in a single day and purchase well beyond the imposed limits, without fear of penalty.

“It is for this reason that purchase limits are ineffective to address health related concerns and the review should focus on the intended outcome of preventing panic buying.

“Sales data from the first week of our national initiative is already showing its effectiveness as sales have significantly normalised, with minimal disruption to consumers or risk to staff.

“Our initiative has the same intent as the WA Government but shows stricter limits aren’t needed,” Ryan said.

Both Retail Drinks and LSA WA are united in their concerns for risks to retail staff during COVID-19.

“Loyalty data from retailers demonstrates that WA consumers have been purchasing more frequently since the imposition of the limits, which places retail staff at increased risk of transmission,” Ryan added.

Meanwhile, Peck said while most vendors were doing the right thing, the small percentage who were offering cheap and unlimited alcohol through the online platform were hurting small business.

“Even though most vendors have been behaving responsibly there is a portion of the online market that is profiteering and not complying with the laws and as a result that puts us at odds with the philosophy of the restrictions.”

Both Retail Drinks and LSA WA have urged the WA Government to consider alignment to national levels, which will prioritise staff safety and put WA business on a level playing field with other states.

The review into WA’s liquor restrictions is expected to be announced today and TheShout will publish any updates as they come through.