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Alcohol purchase restrictions lifted across Australia

April 27, 2020
By Alana House

Alcohol purchase restrictions have been lifted across Australia as buying levels stablise in bottle shops.

Retail Drinks Australia has announced the conclusion of its members’ voluntary national initiative, which placed temporary limits on the amount of product customers can purchase in one transaction.

The lifted alcohol purchase restrictions are effective from the opening of trading hours on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

Retail Drinks CEO Julie Ryan said that the temporary alcohol purchase restrictions had alleviated concerns regarding potential panic-buying of alcohol.

“The specific purpose of the restrictions was to demonstrate coordinated industry leadership by liquor retailers, and to pre-emptively address concerns regarding panic-buying,” she said.

“After monitoring data closely over the last month, we can report that despite early elevated purchasing following initial announcements of COVID-19 related restrictions, we have seen purchasing trends flatten and return to near-normal.”

Retailers report worst trading in four years

Ryan said some liquor retailers are reporting their worst April trading in more than four years.

“Retail liquor trading has returned to 2019 levels, and in many cases is actually significantly lower,” she noted.

“On average, liquor retail sales in April are up to 15% lower than this time last year and Easter trading was also up to 10% lower than the 2019 Easter trading period.

“It is likely that the Easter trading was a combination of several factors: early buying at increased levels resulted in Australians not needing to re-purchase alcohol as often or as much in the following weeks because they already held sufficient quantities at home; and social distancing restrictions meant that the usual purchasing to support entertaining family and friends was not required.”

Ryan said the significant reduction in liquor sales was consistent with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Global Economic & Markets Research report CBA Card Spend – week ending April 3, 2020, published April 6, 2020, which showed that overall alcohol purchasing was 10% lower in the first week of April than the same time in the prior year.

Bottle shop Perth

She added that Australian alcohol consumption has been trending down for many years, and a short one-week spike in purchasing associated with the fear of bottle shop closures has done nothing to change that.

“A few small surveys suggested that there is a risk of increased alcohol related harm during this crisis, but they didn’t actually ask people how much they were drinking, so this doesn’t tell us anything relevant about Australian’s drinking habits,” she explained.

“When you consider the huge reduction in liquor sold in Australia from the complete decimation of the on-premise industry in pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes, the return to 2019 trading levels in retail means that total liquor sales in Australia are actually significantly reduced from prior years,” notes Ms Ryan.

Ryan said Australians are continuing the trends found in the most comprehensive survey of Australian’s attitudes to drinking, the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

“The AIHW survey over the last few years has showed consistent declines in the consumption of alcohol at harmful rates, increased abstinence by teenagers, and a significant decline in total alcohol consumption,” she said.

“All evidence points to Australian’s continuing to enjoy moderate alcohol consumption as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.”

Retail Drinks said its liquor retailers encourage Australians to continue these positive trends, through their membership and support of Drinkwise, the national social change organisation created to bring about a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia.

“Retail Drinks and its members remain committed to responsible sale and supply of alcohol and praise the leadership of Drinkwise in its education focus on responsible consumption,” said Ryan.

Drinkwise has worked with emergency doctor and DrinkWise Ambassador, Dr Andrew Rochford, to execute a significant education campaign to support Australian’s safe and responsible alcohol consumption during COVID-19 and provide access to support services to those who may have concerns. This campaign, executed through digital and social media, print media and radio, has reached millions of Australians.

The DrinkWise website has information and tips to moderate consumption in addition to referral services if people need more immediate help.

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