At a time when we are being inundated with GDPR-related opt-ins and opt-outs, it is a clear reminder of the amount of new legislation that retailers have had to comply with in recent years.
New regulation abounds in almost every aspect of a store’s operation, but none more so than in tobacco. Following the requirement for closed gantries came the introduction of plain packaging and a ban on small packs. But our research indicates that retailers, and consumers, have simply got used to these inconveniences and carried on.
I don’t want in any way to underestimate the impact of this legislation. Some retailers have lost valuable revenue, and pretty much every wholesaler is reporting a dip in tobacco sales. And, of course, the number of people smoking is in long-term decline, so sales are being lost somewhere. But the point is that the sector has read the situation, and adapted to it.
Many retailers have used the requirements of the new legislation to make changes to the way they stock and sell tobacco, by reducing the number of skus and/or employing below-the-counter or electronic merchandising solutions. And let’s not forget the challenges faced by manufacturers either, but at least some of the incentive schemes offered for maintaining a good stock position on key lines has proved to be a welcome boost to profitability.
Soon there will be more compliance issues to deal with. Tobacco ‘track and trace’ technology will require retailers to apply for a unique indicator code before they can purchase tobacco, and require wholesalers to scan the products as they go through the supply chain. It’s another complicating factor for the trade, but I’m banking on it to once again find a solution.