Dawn Til Dusk shops fall victim to bootlegging boom

THE FAST-GROWING bootlegging trade claimed one of its first business casualties yesterday when a chain of convenience stores said it was in talks to sell all or part of its business.

Shares in Dawn Til Dusk, a 90-strong chain based in Sunderland, Liverpool and Manchester, were suspended from Aim when the company said it was in talks with potential buyers, thought to include T&S, the convenience giant.

In a stock exchange statement, the group said shareholders were unlikely to see any return from the sale. Directors were unavailable for comment.

In April, Dawn Til Dusk said it was closing 14 dedicated Liquorzone stores and a distribution centre in Peterlee, Durham. The group said sales and margins were devastated by the UK's pounds 1.5bn trade in smuggled cigarettes and alcohol. It planned to move into delicatessens, but it is believed the cost of closing the liquor business was prohibitive, forcing it into a sale of the entire chain.

"The Government has declared `open sesame' on cross-channel trade and it has destroyed the value of this business," said an analyst. Led by the Kent brewer, Shepherd Neame, the liquor industry has urged the Government to slash duties on beer and spirits to counter continental imports.

The Tobacco Manufacturers Industry has called for a pounds 1 cut in cigarette taxes. Sweden and Canada have made sharp cuts in duty to counter smuggling.

However, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, said in the Budget that he would continue to boost cigarette duty above inflation to discourage smoking. He elected to appoint a "smuggling tsar" to combat the problem.