Hundreds of independent retailers in Scotland to be mystery shopped

Retailers to be offered free help and support to stop under-age tobacco use 

Up to 480 independent retailers in Scotland are set to receive a mystery shop in the coming weeks as part of a new initiative to reduce youngsters’ access to tobacco.
Ten per cent of all independent retailers in Scotland will receive a visit organised by Responsible Tobacco Retailing (RTR), a new compliance programme which is being rolled out across the country since the start of July.  
The initiative was launched in March 2015 by Japan Tobacco  International, Philip Morris Limited, and Imperial Tobacco Limited, which collectively cover the majority of the UK tobacco market.
It’s designed to mystery shop retailers to see if they are ‘at risk’ of potentially selling tobacco products to people under the age of 18. Those who are deemed to be at risk will be offered free training and support.
The accredited training is designed to cover all age-restricted products, not just tobacco, and can count towards a Level 2 NVQ in preventing under age sales.
It follows successful schemes in the North West of England in 2014, and the East of England, Yorkshire and Humberside, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands and Wales in 2015.
The programme will be rolled out in other areas of the UK over the coming years with support from three of the major tobacco manufacturers.
The first RTR annual report revealed a 19.6 per cent improvement in performance from retailers during the first year of the programme.
Tony Allen, managing director of Under Age Sales, which specialises in helping retailers prevent under age sales, said: “First and foremost, the purpose of the Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme is to reduce youth access to tobacco, an issue which all involved parties are in agreement must be tackled.
“We are by no means trying to catch retailers out with the test purchases; far from it – we simply want to identify those that may be at risk of selling tobacco to children and help them take the necessary steps to protect themselves.
“By empowering and enabling retailers to meet their obligations and become gatekeepers to stop under 18s accessing tobacco, we can all work together to raise standards across the board and make a real difference to communities across Wales and the rest of the UK.”
Paul Baxter, chief executive of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN), added: “NFRN members make every effort to retail responsibly but it’s not easy for shopkeepers to judge the ages of people coming into their stores, so making sure you stay within the law when it comes to underage sales is a constant challenge.
“We therefore welcome this new initiative, which forms part of the Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme, and would encourage any retailer who is identified as at risk to take advantage of the free of charge training.”
The Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme, which started in the North West of England, is gradually being rolled out across the UK over a two-year period. In 2015, the programme covered the North West, Yorkshire & Humberside, North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England and Wales.
In 2016, the programme will be rolled out to Scotland, Northern Ireland and the South West; and in 2017 to the South East and London.
The test purchasing will be provided by Serve Legal Ltd, a leading London-based supplier of independent test purchasing services for retailers of age-restricted products including alcohol, gambling and tobacco.
The training and support will be provided by Under Age Sales Ltd, which is also managing the programme. The Stockport-based social enterprise specialises in supporting retailers of age-restricted products with comprehensive information, training and support.
About Under Age Sales
Under Age Sales is a social enterprise which specialises in helping retailers prevent under age sales of restricted products, and assists them in achieving compliance; providing staff training, point-of-sale materials, compliance advice and support services.
It offers comprehensive and, if needed, intensive support to mainly small, independent retailers including sole traders, chain retailers, symbol or fascia groups, and franchisees.
Under Age Sales is accredited by the Trading Standards Institute to provide nationally recognised training, and is an Edexcel accredited centre.
The protection of children from harm is what lies behind the range of age restricted sales legislation.
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