UK: S&N moves to calm retailer row
Scottish & Newcastle has moved to diffuse tensions between the company and the UK's largest retailers after last week claiming that supermarket promotions contibuted to binge drinking.
The UK's largest brewer said today (8 August) that it has started discussions with retailers on the issue and on ways to promote responsible drinking.
John Dunsmore, managing director of S&N's UK business, said the brewer has a "multi-pronged strategy" on social responsibility and has sought talks with retailers on the subject.
"One of the areas we are seeking to engage with multiple grocers on is the price of beer and cider. They have responded positively and we are holding dialogue."
Last week, S&N gave evidence to the UK's competition authorities that the country's biggest supermarkets were selling alcohol at below cost to drive footfall into its stores.
S&N's claims were made to the Competition Commission, which is investigating the grocery sector and the power of the 'big four' supermarkets, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons.
The claims angered retailers who have argued that S&N's move could be a way to achieve "better prices" when selling their products to supermarkets.
However, Dunsmore insisted that supermarkets are not to blame for the rise of binge drinking. "We're not trying to blame one party. It's a multi-faceted challenge and we're trying to get the best result for everyone involved, which is in the interest of suppliers and retailers."
Dunsmore was speaking as S&N published a set of healthy first-half figures. The brewer, which says 40% of its UK sales go through the supermarket channel, posted a 7.6% jump in operating profit to GBP227m (US$432.5m) for the six months to the end of June. Group sales rose 6% to just under GBP2bn.
A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium welcomed moves by S&N to take a "more constructive approach" on the issue of responsible drinking.
He told just-drinks: "Dealing with irresponsible drinking is a joint effort for everyone involved. All parties - suppliers, retailers and government - should play their part."
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