Sainsbury's to stop giving Nectar points on alcohol

3 July 2014

Nectar cardYou can get Nectar points on practically anything now. Buying second-hand underwear on eBay*? Nectar points. Constipation relief from the supermarket? Nectar points. Bottle of Pimms?

Zero Nectar points.

Sainsbury’s have decided to stop giving you Nectar points on the sale of spirits and liqueurs and are blaming the Government.

Not only are whisky, Pimms, gin and vodka excluded from points tallies, they will also, going forwards, be excluded from minimum spend promotions when, for example, you get a £5 discount when you spend more than £50, joining current exiles such as tobacco and lottery ticket sales.

But why have Sainsbury’s decided to do this? They are blaming the introduction of the “complex” minimum alcohol pricing regulations (almost three months ago), which mean a 440ml can of 5% beer must have a minimum price of 50p. A standard bottle of 40% vodka can now not be sold for less than £10.16 and a bottle of wine for less than £2.24.

On the face of it, you can see Sainsbury’s point. Imagine they were selling bottles of vodka for £10.16 and then you earn Nectar points. These points must have *some* value, and they are therefore selling that bottle of vodka for £10.15999, which is below the minimum price level and would mean they would be breaking the law.

However, the change is not actually the Government’s fault (sorry about that) for two reasons. Firstly the minimum alcohol prices in England and Wales (but definitely not in Scotland, where the legislation is currently being challenged) were quite deliberately set at a level that is lower than the lowest-discounted alcohol currently available in England and Wales. At Sainsbury’s, for example, the cheapest standard strength bottle of vodka is £11.50. That’d be a whole lot of Nectar points to take it below the minimum price of £10.16.

So given that Sainsbury’s were highly unlikely to be selling alcohol below minimum price even with a Nectar points discount, what other reason could they possibly give. Ah yes, those “complex” rules. Sainsbury’s are sticking to their story that this change is required to make it simple enough for their staff and customers to understand:

“We’ve tried to implement the government’s complex new legislation on alcohol pricing in a way which keeps it as simple for customers and colleagues to understand as possible,” a spokesman said. “In some areas we have gone beyond the legal minimum in the interests of simplicity and ensuring we always trade in a fully compliant and legal way,” Sainsbury’s said, smiling apologetically.

Only, the thing is, the official guidelines issued by the Home Office specifically exclude loyalty schemes when checking whether alcohol is being sold at a high enough price, as any “discount” in the form of points is redeemed against future purchases. A Home Office spokesman told the Telegraph that Sainsbury’s had “gone above” what was required by the law.

Nice try Sainsbury’s, but now we all know that you were acting in the interests of your pocket, rather than simplicity…

* you can’t actually buy used underwear on eBay for “health and hygiene reasons”. And because that would be gross.

TOPICS:   Supermarket

4 comments

  • Alexis
    Meddling government. Why the hell can't people save up their points and use them for the Christmas alcohol shop?
  • AtillaTheHun
    Nectar points are useless, you have to spend £7000 to get 2000 nectar points that turn out to only be worth 47p. It costs me more in food for the extra energy to carry the card than I get out of it.
  • terminator
    Never had their card and don't want one even though I keep getting prompting from company's to apply for one especially my energy supplier.
  • K
    My friend works at Sainsbury's and she tells me that they've also removed colleague discount from alcohol because of the "complex" rules. That was a while ago now though. Getting far too greedy these days.

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