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Independent off-licence sector "in danger of dying out"

That is according to the National Off-Licence Association, which is concerned about the impact Budget 2014 could have on off-licences.

Image: Bottles of alcohol via Shutterstock

THE GOVERNMENT HAS been called upon to bring in the mooted alcohol misuse strategy soon – and not delay it further.

That is according to the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA), whose chairperson, Evelyn Jones, told TheJournal.ie that the sector is “on its knees” and in danger of dying out.

Last week, Primary Care Minister Alex White said that the Cabinet is “close to reaching agreement” on the strategy, which would include a ban on alcohol ads before the 9pm watershed, and minimum pricing.

Independent off-licences

Jones expressed her sadness over the closure of 11 independent off-licences in Dublin, Meath and Kildare, as well as the number of jobs lost in the past eight months.

She said that at least one business “has gone to the wall each month and over 60 jobs have been lost in a relatively short period of time”.

Describing the off-licence sector as “on its knees”, she said that “within a few years [it] will have died out completely”.

NoffLA believes that large multiple retailers “use alcohol as a footfall driver and sell alcohol in an extremely irresponsible manner” and that the government needs to introduce measures to eradicate this practice.

NOffLA expects a further five businesses to close by the end of December 2013 and a further 20-25 are expected to close in 2014.

Independent off-licences held 21.8 per cent of the market share in 2012 but it is estimated that they will hold only 16 per cent market share in 2014, said NoffLA.

Budget 2014

Jones said that independent retailers have had to struggle with the excise increases brought about by Budget 2013. The sector is appealing for no such increases in Budget 2014.

She said that any further increase “will surely sound the death-knell for our sector”.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Jones said that this is occurring against a “backdrop of negative press that alcohol has been getting recently” and that NoffLA is asking the government to act on this.

This includes bringing in the promised alcohol misuse strategy, as it “would be a real help to the industry”.

Jones said that the group have been appealing to Finance Minister Michael Noonan not to increase excise on alcohol in Budget 2014. She said they have engaged with the Department of Finance on a ministerial and official level.

“All our members are very anxious about the budget as are all our wholesalers,” she said.

“We just need some action,” she said of the strategy.

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) has also expressed its concern about the budget, reiterating its call for the Government to reverse the excise increase.

It also wants it to retain the 9 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality sector and to set up a task force to address the “enormous challenges” facing small Irish drinks businesses.

The group also said it believes the Government “has reached a situation of diminishing marginal returns on alcohol taxation, where any increases in rates in the forthcoming Budget will not deliver the expected yields”.

Read: More off-licences expected to close if government refuses to reduce excise duty>

Read: Cabinet close to agreement on alcohol strategy, but sponsorship ban will be deferred>

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