“Rising to the Challenge” a report into the application and impact of Challenge 25

Underage alcohol sales down, but industry facing new challenges
A new report into the effectiveness of Challenge 25 - the retail-led initiative designed to prevent underage sales of alcohol - has found retailers are making considerable progress in driving down underage sales. However, the report also identified the emergence of worrying new trends outside of retailers’ control, including an increase in ‘proxy purchasing’.

Challenge 25 was originally introduced in 2006 and requires anyone over the age of 18, who looks under 25, to produce an acceptable form of ID when purchasing alcohol. The voluntary scheme was brought in to tackle the high rate of underage purchases and has now been adopted by all major UK supermarkets. Key findings of the Rising to the Challenge report, brought together by the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group (RASG) which administers the scheme, include:
·         Around 850,000 shop workers are given training in the application of Challenge 25 each year;
·         Approximately 11 million people have been challenged to provide ID as a result of Challenge 25, including 75% of 18-24 year olds;
·         The number of young people drinking in the last week has fallen 18% since Challenge 25 was introduced and alcohol consumption amongst 16-24 year olds has fallen by 24%;
·         86% of 18-24 year olds are aware of Challenge 25; and
·         8 out of 10 people are supportive of retailers that adopt the scheme.
But the report also highlights some of the continuing challenges retailers face in relation to underage sales. This includes the lack of universality for the scheme, with the lower threshold of Challenge 21 in operation in the on trade or in independent stores; frontline staff facing verbal and physical abuse from customers refused an alcohol sale, and the growing problem of proxy purchasing, which is where parents or other adults purchase alcohol on behalf of children. The report therefore makes the following recommendations to build on the good progress being made:
·         On-going promotion of Challenge 25 to the on-trade and independent retailers;
·         To work with the police and other stakeholders to tackle the serious issue of assaults on frontline staff and call on the Government to create a new aggregated offence of assaulting shop workers;
·         Further work is needed to tackle the issue of proxy purchasing, including better alcohol education and local partnership working;
·         RASG should develop a programme to promote Challenge 25 in regions with the lowest levels of challenges and awareness.
Commenting on the report Nick Grant, outgoing Chair of the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group, said:
“Retailers have invested a significant amount of time and resources into ensuring Challenge 25 is a success; including effective training for staff, clear signage and the universal application across all of our stores.
So it is pleasing to see the positive progress that has been made in driving down underage alcohol sales through its adoption.”
Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said:
“Tackling underage sales of alcohol is a key priority for the industry and this report demonstrates good progress is being made thanks to Challenge 25.
However, as alcohol has become increasingly difficult for young people to buy directly, there has been a worrying increase in proxy purchasing.
More needs to be done in partnership with Government, schools and others to tackle this growing problem as it is an issue that retailers are unable to tackle on their own.”
Notes to Editors:
The WSTA commissioned a YouGov poll of 4000 people to find out their understanding and awareness of the scheme. The following is a highlight of the results:
·         67% of people recognised Challenge 25, but recognition among young people was much higher. 86% of 18-24 year olds have heard of Challenge 25 and 79% understood its purpose. Similarly, 86% of 25-34 year olds have heard of it and 77% knew its purpose;
·         Out of the UK population, 23% have been asked to produce ID by Challenge 25. As a total number of UK adults, this is the equivalent to 11m people (using ONS data of 47.8 million UK adults over 18);
·         Younger people make up the majority of this, with 75% of 18-25 year olds having been challenged and 55% of 25-34 year olds;
·         There was strong support for retailers that adopt Challenge 25 with 79% of respondents saying they either strongly support (51%) or tend to support (29%) retailers adopting the scheme;
·         For a full breakdown of the regional polling results (showing awareness of Challenge 25 and rates of proxy purchasing at a local level) please see pages 20-22 of the report. Local regions polled include: North East, North West, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, Wales, London, Scotland, South East, South West and East of England.  
A copy of the full report can be viewed here:
About RASG:
The work of the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group is primarily focused around preventing underage drinking, as well as promoting high standards among alcohol retailers. RASG developed and maintains the Challenge 25 scheme and created Community Alcohol Partnerships. The group works on all licensing-related issues and serves as a forum to share best practice and develop new policies in relation to responsible retailing.
About the WSTA:
The WSTA is the UK organisation for the wine and spirits industry representing over 340 companies producing, importing, exporting, transporting and selling wines and spirits. We work with our members to promote the responsible production, marketing and sale of alcohol.
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