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COMMENT & ANALYSIS


Beer boss moves to alcohol partnership


FORMER Carling sales chief Paul Miller has taken up a new role as programme director at the Scottish Government Alcohol Industry Partnership. Miller, who left Molson Coors at the beginning of the year, is charged with co-ordinating and leading the activities of the group, which sees drinks firms, trade groups and government collaborate on solutions to tackle alcohol misuse. The role now held by Miller has in the past been occupied by Mark Baird, Diageo’s corporate social responsibility manager. “The alcohol industry in its varied forms is a key contributor to the economy in Scotland,” Miller said. “It fully recognises the health and social challenges which alcohol misuse brings upon the population as a whole.


“By aligning the


capability and focus of the industry with that of the government on this vital issue, I believe the SGAIP


Retailers deserve moment in sun


Miller: link between policy makers and drinks industry.


can play a constructive and positive role in changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.”


Since its formation in 2007, the Alcohol Industry Partnership has created schemes such as Alcohol Awareness Week and drawn up guidelines on alcohol sponsorship. Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said Miller will play “an invaluable role” in the organisation.


Hotels endure a torrid December


THE poor weather in December dealt a blow to Scotland’s hotel industry, with both occupancy and revenues dropping off at the end of the year. According to the monthly hotel survey from accountancy firm PKF, the average occupancy in Scottish hotels was down 8.5% in December 2010 compared to December 2009, while revenues fell by 9.1%.


Edinburgh was worst hit, with occupancy levels down 12.5% and revenues down by 11%, with Glasgow hotels suffering a smaller hit of 2.6% in occupancy and 5.1% in revenue. December wasn’t a tough month for the hospitality industry in every Scottish city, however. Aberdeen saw occupancy rise 10.2% compared to December 2009, while revenues increased by 10.6%. PKF attributed this to rising oil prices.


“Edinburgh seems to have suffered more as a result


10 - SLTN - February 17, 2011


of the weather because of the closure of the airport which will have affected the leisure and business market and resulted in lower occupancy,” said PKF partner Alastair Rae. “The figures for Aberdeen indicate that it is returning to the more normal


performance for this period. The city experienced a massive downturn during 2009 and, even given these increases in occupancy and revenue, the numbers are still not quite at their 2008 level.”


However, despite a tough month for Scottish hotels in December, Scotland enjoyed the highest occupancy and revenue figures throughout 2010 as a whole. Across the entire 12-month period, Scottish hotels reported occupancy of 71.6% (up 0.7% from 2009) and an average room yield of £51.24 (down 0.8% on 2009). This is compared to the average UK occupancy figure of 69.4% and revenue of £42.86.


HE burden imposed on the on-trade by the tidal wave of alcohol legislation introduced in recent years has been well- documented on these pages. What we have devoted less column inches too, however, is the impact such changes have had on a smaller part of our readership – the independent off-trade. Community convenience stores haven’t always enjoyed the best of reputations as far as alcohol sales are concerned. It’s still common to hear peo- ple link problems associated with youth drinking to corner stores, the suggestion being that shops like these are still a source of alcohol for persons under 18.


T


As is often the case with stere- otypes, however, this is a crude


As is often the case with stereotypes, it’s only loosely rooted in fact.


generality that’s only loosely rooted in fact. Sure, there can be no deny- ing that, until Holyrood took a much tougher line on the issue, a good number of stores should have been much tighter on age- restricted sales than they were, but these were very much in the minority. Today, thanks to changes brought by the 2005 Licensing Act and the 2010 Alcohol Act (which takes effect on October 1), no retailer can afford to be anything other than rigorous in their approach to the law, which of course is the way it should be. What is perhaps less well


known, though, is just how committed many in the inde- pendent convenience trade are to upholding not just the word, but the spirit of licensing laws. I received some insight into this in the year I spent as editor of Scottish Grocer, sister pub- lication to SLTN, a few years ago.


That knowledge was bolstered last week when I spent two days visiting convenience stores around Scotland as part of the judging team for this year’s Scottish Grocer Awards. In the esteemed company of


Ken MacKenzie, the former chief officer of the Scottish Co-


SLTN


VIEW Scott Wright


op, and Diageo’s Mark Baird, we were tasked to find the stores and companies which best dis- charged their duties as respon- sible retailers of alcohol. And what we found was truly inspiring. At company level, we spoke to


large convenience store opera- tors, organisations which have invested untold amounts in training to shape staff attitudes to drinks retailing and what it means to be a genuine commu- nity retailer.


At the other end of the scale,


we interviewed stand-alone retailers who have immersed themselves in local community


life, and who are often forced to act bravely in socially and eco- nomically challenged areas to provide a genuine service to the people on their doorstep. Some showed genuine entre- preneurial spirit: one retailer revealed he is able to ensure his store is not a target for anti- social behaviour by increasing the price of a certain tonic wine if any incidents do occur. For retailers like these, social responsibility is more than a box-ticking exercise, and the role they are playing in chang- ing attitudes to alcohol in com- munities around Scotland de- serves to be commended.


Pubco progress is welcome


NEIL Robertson, the boss of the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII), made some encouraging noises on the issue of pubco reform last week. The BII was last year appointed to accredit and monitor the strict code of practice pubcos are now obliged to adopt to ensure their leases are more transparent. It’s designed to prevent the kind of lessee “bullying” that MPs on the House of Commons’ Business, Innovation and Skills committee uncovered as part of its enquiry into pubcos last year.


In an interview with


SLTN (see page 20), Robertson admits tensions still exists


between pub firms and leaseholders. But he is convinced the code is ensuring would-be tenants are now taking leases on with their eyes open.


Robertson said the BII’s new rent review process has also been a positive development, with many disputes now being settled before review proceedings begin. With cynicism still abound over how serious pubcos are about giving tenants a fair deal, it’s clear there is still some way to go on the reform journey, but it’s an encouraging start. The reopening of the MPs’ enquiry in June will give us an idea of how far the pubcos have come.


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