Centra under fire over child benefit alcohol deals

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Supermarket chain Centra has had to scrap a children’s allowance day promotion which included low-cost alcohol as part of the deal following a hail of criticism.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the promotion was “exceptionally irresponsible”.

Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power and Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay were among those who criticised Centra over the promotion, with Mr Finlay calling it “disgusting”.

Róisín Shortall, the junior minister with responsibility for drug and alcohol policy, demanded that the promotion be dropped and said a new code of practice for business would help prevent such promotions from taking place in future.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the promotion was “cynical” and added: “It suggests that some retailers are more concerned with boosting their turnover and profits than selling alcohol responsibly.”

Centra, which is owned by Musgrave Wholesale group, had been advertising its children’s allowance day deals in four shops to coincide with the first Tuesday of the month when the payment is made.

Under the tagline “make your money last” a number of items featured on the promotional flyer, including bread and pizzas.

However, the flyer also featured a 20-bottle case of Miller beer and a 20-bottle case of Budweiser, for €15 each, or two cases for €25.

Ms Power said she was “genuinely shocked” at “such a cynical and reckless promotion”. Fergus Finlay tweeted: “Centra promoting cheap beer as a ’children’s allowance day deal’. Hard to imagine anything more exploitative and abusive. Disgusting.”

Alcohol Action Ireland said the promotion was “totally irresponsible”.

The body’s director, Fiona Ryan, said: “Promotions like this underline the need for tighter regulation. If we continue to sell alcohol like a grocery in supermarkets and not treat it as a licensed product, then in one way I’m not surprised a retailer would put alcohol in with groceries like this.”

The National Youth Council of Ireland said it was an example of the weakness of the voluntary code developed by retailers in 2009.

In a statement, Centra said it had instructed the shops running the promotion ”” two in Dublin, one in Co Wicklow, and one in Co Offaly ”” to drop it with immediate effect. It said the promotion was not part of a national marketing plan or promotional strategy.

“Centra fully understands that the abuse of alcohol is a serious issue in Irish society and apologises for the promotion, which although isolated to four stores, is contrary to Centra’s belief that retailers have a critical role to play in ensuring that alcohol is promoted and sold responsibly.”

It also said Centra was “reminding all of its 462 retailers across the country to follow strict guidelines which are in place regarding the responsible promotion of alcohol”.

Ms Shortall has proposed measures aimed at tackling problematic domestic drinking, including the misuse of alcohol by young people.

Among the proposals are the introduction of minimum pricing, which would limit alcohol promotions. She said a new code of practice would also be applied.