There have been predictable howls of outrage over the news that Tesco have been selling 75cl bottles of Bulgarian wine for a mere £1.11. It’s easy to condemn Sir Terry Leahy as a hypocrite for allowing this to happen while at the same time expressing support for minimum pricing and a ban on below-cost selling. But all he’s doing is what any canny businessman would do – trying to get the government to allow him and his competitors to set up a price-fixing cartel, but insisting he can’t move on his own as it would put Tesco at a disadvantage. He is following the precept of St Augustine, “Grant me chastity and continence, only not yet.”
And why are they selling wine at £1.11 a bottle anyway – because they’re lumbered with a surplus of stock they can’t shift (and I suspect bottles of Bulgarian Chardonnay that normally retail at £2.99 aren’t very palatable in the first place). So it makes sense, as it would with slow-selling packets of cereal or boxes of chocolates, to cut the price to get rid of it. Would it be better to simply pour it down the drain? The Righteous would probably say yes, of course. And, if such discounts were outlawed, the result would be obvious – smaller producers of alcoholic drinks of any kind would be expected to supply Tesco on a sale or return basis, or not at all.