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Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has termed the UK government proposal to restrict the in-store promotions of junk food or high fat, salt, sugar (HFSS) products as “expensive and impractical.”

The trade body, in its submission to the consultation on the issue, asked the government to to exempt small stores from the regulations and narrow the types of products that would fall in scope of the proposed restrictions.

“We do not believe the Government’s role should be to dictate the layout of shops. For our members, many of which who run very small shops, banning several categories of product from main areas of the store will be expensive and impractical,” said James Lowman, chief executive of the ACS.

The consultation, launched by the Department of Health and Social Care, proposes new rules to restrict retailers using multibuy promotions, such as ‘buy one, get one free’, and promotions at checkouts, end of aisles and store entrances of junk food.

ACS has called on the Government to exempt all stores under 280sqm/3000sq ft from the placement restrictions, as making significant changes to the layout of these stores is impractical and could be extremely disruptive.

ACS said the cost of adapting convenience stores to comply with the proposed placement restrictions could cost up to an estimated £483 million.

ACS has called on the government to narrow the number of products in order to “avoid confusion and unintended consequences, such as restricting products that could form part of a nutritious meal.”

The products that are proposed to be in scope of the regulations could cover almost half of those sold in the convenience sector, including confectionery, soft drinks, food to go, bakery products and savoury snacks, the submission noted.

The submission has also raised serious concerns about the accuracy of the government’s impact assessment for the regulations. The assessment significantly underestimates the number of convenience stores in the UK, suggesting that there are around 13,500 stores instead of over 46,000, as well as underestimating the cost of enforcement for the regulations, it said.

“We are also not sure how the Government would intend to enforce these regulations,” Lowman added. “At a time when retailers are being told that trading standards don’t have the resources to investigate widespread selling of illicit tobacco by criminals, and the police don’t have the resources to investigate theft, abuse and violence against staff, allocating people and money to measuring the distance between certain products and the till does not make sense.”

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