Big political and regulatory issues concerning the grocery market continue to seethe away, but the day-to-day business of the Federation that affects wholesalers’ needs must continue. As this issue of ProWholesaler was going to press, the report from the Parliamentary All Party Small Shops’ Group on the future of retailing on Britain’s high streets was about to be published. Its findings will get wide media coverage, but one thing is certain – the wholesaler’s pivotal role in maintaining a healthy independent retail sector will play centre stage.

Meanwhile, life and the ordinary business of the trade go on. For example, FWD has been working closely with the government over many months to ensure the smooth introduction of duty stamps on bottles of spirits. FWD chairs a group of other concerned trade bodies and representatives of HM Revenue and Customs to make sure that the government’s communications on this new scheme are effective.

This important development will begin to see the stamps appearing on some new stock in the next few weeks. There are two types of stamps, and most UK manufacturers will use one that can be incorporated on the back label of their brands. A freestanding stamp is also available and is likely to be used on lower volume imported spirits brands. The majority of suppliers are racing to get the stamps applied early before the deadline of 1 October 2006. After that date, all bottles of spirits 35cl or more with an ABV of 30% or over, must bear a duty stamp when they pass the UK excise duty point.

From 1 January 2007 bottles sold in retail outlets must carry the UK duty stamp if they passed the duty point on or after 1 October 2006. However, unstamped bottles can still be sold legally if duty was paid on them before 1 October 2006 and records are kept to show this. These do not need to be anything special, just normal receipts and the like. This last fact is crucial to a smooth transition to the new regime, because we do not want wholesalers’ customers refusing to buy perfectly legal unstamped stock. Or worse still, bringing back unstamped bottles and demanding replacements.

Therefore the government’s publicity campaign that FWD has helped to shape is crucial. It combines advertising, PR and below the line publicity and you will be able to see one of the ads in the next issue of ProWholesaler. FWD members also need to gear up on educating their customers about the scheme and they can find useful information on an HMRC website ( This site will contain downloadable posters and handbills shortly.

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