Alcohol Healthwatch points to the lack of price and outlet density controls in response to a growing number of big players planning to compete in New Zealand’s retail liquor market. Both Foodstuffs New Zealand and Woolworths Australia (who recently purchased the New Zealand supermarket business of Progressive Enterprises), have been widely reported as planning to open large format standalone liquor stores in New Zealand.
Director Rebecca Williams says that these big players will be entering an already competitive market and will prompt increased competition, particularly in the sale of spirits and spirit-based drinks which are currently excluded by law from their supermarket outlets.
Price will be a key issue as outlets compete with each other and make use of their bulk buying powers. Williams says price controls from off-licence liquor outlets in New Zealand are minimal and outlet density is also market driven.
While the players jostle for market share, the resulting lower prices and greater availability can only have negative consequences for communities. Williams suggests that the current high risk groups – the moderate to heavy drinkers, young drinkers and those already dependent - will again be the most vulnerable to such market change. However, the tab for alcohol-related health and social harms is picked up by everyone.
Increased competition is also likely to demand more from our monitoring and enforcement agencies, stretching limited resources even further.
Greater price control through taxation and increased control of outlet density must be included in the mix of strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm.
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Action on Liquor Campaign information and briefing papers (including one on amendments to the Sale of Liquor Act and alcohol taxation) can be found at http://www.ahw.org.nz/page.php?92