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Supermarkets will shop elsewhere if bureaucracy continues

By Liam Clarke

Published 27/07/2012

What have Stormont ministers got against supermarkets?

First we had the 'Tesco tax', forcing big out-of-town stores - where most people like to shop - to pay a rates levy to help smaller stores blighted by high town-centre car-parking charges.

Now Nelson McCausland wants to force supermarkets to build a special walled-off section for alcohol sales, so that shoppers will have to queue separately.

That was the regime in the past. It was subsequently changed to allow supermarkets to sell alcohol in a separate section within the main store, using some of the same tills as for other goods.

This should be enough to stop impulse buying of drink by people who only came in for groceries - if that is the minister's intention.

Now, no sooner have supermarkets adapted to the current system, they are being asked to change back to the old one.

Heavy drinkers would probably find it an advantage to have a dedicated till and sales area, so they don't have to tramp through the whole store and queue up with people doing the weekly shop.

On the other hand, if we keep changing the ground rules on which businesses operate, that sends a bad message to investors.

It looks as if we are intent on penalising successful business models and introducing more red tape just for the sake of it.

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