Home delivery is booming, but retailers must take care with off sales
WHEN the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year retailers were thrust into unknown territory, gaining key worker status, having to put in place safety measures and deal with stock shortages as well as protect their own health.
That said, as initial concerns gave way to the ‘new normal’, many retailers actually began to benefit from the restrictions on a normal life as sales increased. For many, deliveries were a key factor in that as these became a lifeline for lots of people – whether shielding, self-isolating, elderly or simply unable to leave the kids at home to shop alone.
Where to license?
The key thing to consider here is where you will be dispatching alcohol for delivery from. Assuming this is the same location you hold a Premises Licence for (e.g. your store) there is no issue. The situation becomes more complex if alcohol was to be dispatched from elsewhere (e.g. a storage unit) in which case a separate licence could be required for that location.
Does my licence allow for deliveries?
Some Licensing Boards take the view that having off-sales on your licence is sufficient to allow you to offer deliveries.
On the other hand, certain Boards insist that your Operating Plan specifies if you will be offering this service, although many have shown leniency over the past year where the delivery of groceries was considered an essential service.
If your Licensing Board requires this and your Operating Plan doesn’t already make reference to deliveries you will be compelled to lodge a Major Variation application to incorporate this as an activity. They may agree to allow you to continue in the interim so an early discussion with the Board officers or LSO is recommended if you find yourself in this situation.
However, the market position as to what is included in the definition of “turnover” is far from settled. Even pre-pandemic, many tenants adopted a business model of multi-channel retailing. Where landlords are willing to adopt a turnover-based rent model, they want to include online sales that have an interaction with the physical store (for example, click-and-collect sales.)
What documentation is required?
Once you are satisfied that your licence allows you to make deliveries there are two key documents that legally must be in place recording all deliveries made: –
• A daybook kept on the premises; and
• A delivery book or invoice held by the delivery driver.
In a time when more and more businesses are going digital, an electronic record of all sales is likely to be considered a ‘book’ provided the staff can easily identify delivery transactions on the request of an LSO or police officer.
The records kept both in-store and with the driver must detail the quantity, price and description of the alcohol plus the name and address of the person receiving the delivery. It’s an offence to deliver to an address other than the one listed in the day and delivery books. If you intend to use a courier service it is important to ensure their drivers are in possession of this information and that they are aware of the restriction on delivering to a neighbour.
The argument that the parcel was left in a safe place (e.g. a wheelie bin) will not quite cut it if it ends up in the hands of a curious child. As a consequence of their irresponsible actions, your licence could be on the line.
Is there anything else I should be aware of?
• As with any sales in-store, alcohol must not be delivered to a person under 18.
• There is no legal requirement for delivery drivers to be trained, however it is strongly recommended that all delivery drivers, including third-party couriers, are trained in the same way as those serving alcohol in store with particular attention given to Challenge 25, acceptable ID and refusing sales/deliveries.
• Sales of alcohol can be made and payment taken only within licensed hours although deliveries may be made outwith these hours, except from 12 midnight to 6am.
• Your local Licensing Board may have their own guidance on how deliveries should operate and/or attach conditions to your licence in this regard.
For many business and individuals the ability to make and receive deliveries was a much needed lifeline in 2020 when freedoms were restricted. Complying with the above requirements and doing your own due diligence will ensure that there are no further restrictions on your ability to trade as we emerge from the past year’s unprecedented constraints.
Do you have a business, property or legal question or issue that you would like to know more about? Contact Scottish Grocer and we’ll put it to an expert. Call Matthew Lynas on 0141 567 6074 or email firstname.lastname@example.org