Minimum unit pricing turnaround is good news for independent wine merchants

The government's apparent U-turn on minimum unit pricing for alcoholic drinks is good news for independent wine merchants, and for their customers.

Under the proposals, alcohol would have been subject to a minimum price of 45p per unit, as a legal benchmark applied to all retailers of alcoholic beverages.

This might not sound especially burdensome - a standard 75cl bottle of wine at 12% abv contains nine units, so therefore would have had to be sold for just over £4.00, or more.

However, when you consider wine offers like 2 for £8.00 or 3 for £10.00, it begins to become apparent how minimum unit pricing could hurt independent wine merchants, who must be able to compete with larger off-premise retailers.

A bottle of standard-strength spirits, meanwhile, can contain 26-28 units, which would qualify it for a minimum price of around £12.00 under the old plans, further limiting the special offers that could be run by wine merchants who also stock spirits.

In response to the news that the plans had been dropped, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said that, while the organisation supports the idea of banning the sale of alcoholic drinks at less-than-cost price, the solution to problem drinking should come from targeted efforts, and not blanket measures.