From April, retailers in Northern Ireland will have to fall in line with new legislation and charge 5p for their carrier bags. Whilst certain types of business will be exempt from the charge on hygiene grounds, the majority of those offering bags will have to charge customers a fee for the privilege, following in the footsteps of Wales who have been charging for bags for some time now.
From 2014, the cost will double, and the fact that the cost of bags will jump so much is another sign that England may not be far behind. But what is the real reason for this levy, and what does it mean to retailers?
The aim of these plans to charge for carrier bags is all about cutting down the number of bags that are wasted. And whilst on the surface it may seem that retailers may suffer as a result, in reality footfall is unlikely to be affected and retailers will simply be able to cancel out the cost of something that was once a significant overhead. Furthermore, since customers will be paying for businesses to buy plastic carrier bags, it will mean that retailers can spend more on their bags and in turn get a far more interesting carrier bag solution to offer customers.
Those shops offering interesting plastic boutique bags rather than tatty and ugly alternatives will not only see their bags being kept by their customers and in turn have them seen time and time again, acting as a constant reminder of the business, but by offering more attractive bags, businesses are also going to get a great deal of promotion from those using them as many members of the general public will be attracted by the bags that the business’s customers walk around with.
So whilst the levy will be restricted to Northern Ireland (and Wales) for now, it may well be worth those in England and Scotland following in their footsteps and spending more on the carrier bags they offer.