Only 256 supermarkets out of thousands were granted licences to sell alcohol for 24 hours a day, while 40 per cent of all licence holders altered their existing licence, according to the department for culture, media and sport in England and Wales
A spokesperson from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) told FoodandDrinkEurope.com: "Lots of retailers have chosen not to apply for large extensions to current opening hours, but instead they chose to opt for an extra hour or two."
She said that increasing staffing costs and the fact that alcohol only represents a small percentage of people's weekly shop does not justify applying for a 24 hour licence.
Retailers who did apply for the licence might be looking to provide a convenience for shoppers, such as shift workers, who do their weekly shopping in the middle of the night and want to buy alcohol, she added.
All retailers selling alcohol were required to apply for a new licence, whether they wished to extend their current licence or keep it the same, by 6 August this year.
The Licensing Act 2003, which came into effect at midnight, also sees an increase in fines for retailers selling alcohol to minors to £5,000 (€7,000).
UK supermarkets have joined forces to tackle this problem. This week director general of the BRC, Kevin Hawkins, attended a meeting at the home office to discuss ways to combat the problem.
By 6 December, with the help of the Government, they plan to display standard signage in all major retail stores and ask employees to wear badges saying "Under 21? I've got to ask for ID. It's my job."
Hawkins said: "With the support of the Government, the retail industry seeks to eliminate underage sales by the end of 2006 and will be reviewing progress regularly with the Home Office during this period."