CAP works closely with retailers, providing support, training and publicity materials. They tell us that being part of CAP makes them more aware of regulations about underage sales and more confident about complying with them, especially when dealing with difficult situations like confrontations in store and abuse of staff.
Neil Butcher, trading standards officer at Kent County Council, has launched seven new CAPs across the county and knows that developing good relationships with retailers is a vital part of tackling underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.
But with a host of new regulations coming into force with the new lockdown in England, Neil has his work cut out – and now he can’t have face to face meetings with retailers, he’s having to find new ways of keeping in touch.
“It’s important to keep in regular contact with retailers, to let them know we’re here for them, and to show our support,” he says. “That way, they know who we are and how we can help. It’s not about enforcement, it’s about working together as a team.”
Neil now telephones the retailers on his patch regularly and has put together a list of questions to ask. They cover issues such as whether wearing face masks has made it more difficult for them to check the age of young people to whether they’ve seen increases in attempted underage alcohol purchases. He makes sure their refusal records are up to date and that they have enough publicity materials.
“Publicity materials from CAP are indispensable - they spell out issues like Challenge 25 requirements for young people to carry acceptable ID when they want to buy alcohol, or remind customers that it’s an offence to buy alcohol for under 18s. You can’t miss them and retailers can point to them to show they’re serious about refusing such sales.”
Neil also uses these conversations to check that retailers are aware of the regulations covering underage sales and sends out regular information packs. He’ll make sure all staff have been suitably trained, and that the necessary documentation has been completed. And he’ll ask about problems that retailers might be experiencing, such as increases in anti-social behaviour, people trying to steal alcohol or attempting to buy it on behalf of youngsters.
“It’s important to know where there’s a problem so we can target potential hotspots. We might go out and stencil information messages in those areas and make the police aware there’s a problem. But if retailers don’t report it, we don’t know.”
“It’s also about giving the retailers the confidence to say no. So we give them training in using the right language and how to refuse sales. Retailers really appreciate these training sessions. One, who had failed Challenge 25 tests, went on to pass after the training and told us how helpful it had been.”
Because face to face training is no longer possible, Neil is looking to provide free sessions online and CAP has already done some virtual training with PCSOs in Tunbridge Wells, helping them to identify issues to look out for. Neil says: “They said it was brilliant and really helped them when they were out and about in the community.”
Neil urges all retailers to work with CAPs in their area. “It enables you to build positive, personal relationships with your local trading standards and licensing officers and police, prevent underage and proxy sales, demonstrate due diligence and protect your licence and livelihood. It also helps reduce anti-social behaviour in and around your store, making it a safer environment to shop and work.”
“We might have to work in different ways because of lockdown – but the work will continue and we’ll be here to support retailers whenever they need us,” he says.
We have a new leaflet outlining the support that CAP offers to retailers - you can download it here.