Nisa retailer Kishor Patel carried out a study at one of his stores in Bedfordshire, comparing service times for tobacco products being served off the gantry with the time taken for serving by the same member of staff from various locations under the counter.

The additional time taken, if it was replicated across the sector, equates to additional labour costs for the industry of more than £100m. It was found that the average time for serving a tobacco product from the gantry is 4.37 seconds, while to retrieve a pack from under the counter and complete the transaction took an average 8.8 seconds. For Kishor’s store that would mean additional service time of nearly four hours (230 minutes) every seven days.

Stocktaking also took twice as long – 65 minutes compared with 35 – and Kishor estimates that replenishment would take an extra 20 minutes a day were products under the counter. The study concludes that the time taken to serve the same volume of customers will increase by six hours and 40 minutes per week if tobacco is moved under the counter.

If Kishor’s findings were to be replicated across the small store industry, where there are an estimated 48,000 tobacco stockists, it would amount to 16.5 million additional man hours per year – at a cost of at least £100m – just to maintain service levels. ACS has already estimated that it would cost the industry more than £250m in capital expenditure to replace tobacco gantries.

Kishor said: “A difference of more than four seconds per packet sold means increased queues, dissatisfied customers, increased labour costs and reduced productivity at a time when we are all trying to make retail more productive.”