Alcohol display's $1m problem

Moving the alcohol display area at Countdown's Cumberland St supermarket in Dunedin would cost the store more than $1million, its owner says.

Countdown owner Progress Enterprises Ltd did not provide a cost breakdown as it faced Dunedin's district licensing committee yesterday.

But the company told the committee it was not reasonable to expect the company to spend that much to meet a new legal requirement to limit shoppers' exposure to alcohol in its store.

But the company could also not agree what measures could reasonably be taken to achieve the requirement.

The company and its lawyer were appearing before the committee to defend their application to renew the store's off-licence.

The application for Countdown Dunedin Central is opposed by health and licensing authorities.

They say the location and presentation of the alcohol display, to the right of the store entrance, maximises shoppers' exposure to alcohol, when the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act requires supermarkets to limit that exposure ''as far as is reasonably practicable''.

They also say the alcohol area is directly between the store's entrance and the main body of the supermarket - which contravenes the Act - although Progressive disagrees the area is in the direct path of shoppers entering the store.

An application to renew Countdown's Mailer St liquor licence is also opposed.

The main concern there is alcohol displayed on the ends of aisles, and snack foods, which attract children, located in the alcohol aisle.

Otago-Southland medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore told the committee she could live with a licence condition requiring the Countdown Central's 20m alcohol display be screened off, with an entry gap.

Progressive national operations manager Robert Moffat instead proposed narrowing the width of the alcohol display and building a 4m-long, 1.6m-high shelf from the entrance along the front of the alcohol area, so people did not immediately see the display when they entered the store.

A full-length screen along the edge of the alcohol area would require full-time monitoring of the enclosure and relocating the produce department, which would cost as much as moving the alcohol, he said.

The layout of supermarkets was a ''very complicated matter'' and relocating displays would require a major store redesign, such as moving refrigeration and plant, which would have ''significant financial and operational consequences''.

''If we had to relocate that department in Countdown Central it would be substantially more than $1million,'' Mr Moffatt said.

The start of yesterday's hearing was delayed 40 minutes while the parties tried unsuccessfully to reach a compromise.

As the hearing began it also became clear they would not agree on end-of-aisle displays of alcohol.

Dr Poore said such displays should be banned at both stores.

She believed they sent subliminal messages normalising alcohol to passers-by.

The hearing was adjourned until the new year.

The Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority is expected to clarify the rules for supermarket alcohol display areas under the new Act.



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