For convenience retailers in England and Wales it's time to put the battles of the last few months behind us and prepare for a future where cigarettes can be sold but not seen. From 2013, or 2011 if your store is over 3,000sq ft, the displays must come down.

Intensive lobbying by retailers failed to persuade the government that banning the display of tobacco products in shops was bad legislation because it would impose costs on store owners, despite the lack of evidence to suggest it would have any effect on levels of youth smoking.

Now that fight is over and we face the next challenge: making the cover-up as cost-efficient as possible, and thrashing out the details of exactly what you can and cannot do to help customers find the product they want.

The Government's consultation paper on implementation of its policy allows retailers to show tobacco products to "people over the age of 18 who have either asked to purchase them or asked for information about them."

The proposal is to allow "temporary displays" in these cases, provided thes area exposed does not exceed 1,500 sq cm. In effect, this means you will be able to open a series of small doors or flaps to show the customer what's on offer.

So what does this mean for your gantry?

"A typical small shop would be required to fit at least 20 separate doors or flaps to their existing unit," says James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores. "The technical challenges in fitting a solution to existing units could be insurmountable. This would mean retailers having to rip out and replace existing units."

That view suggests that the costs of compliance could be far higher than the government's official estimate of £1000 per store, and makes a mockery of its repeated claim that the burden would be even less for smaller stores.

It also goes against the government's assurances that it would take the lightest touch possible in its approach to compliance.

Price at every till

Under the proposals, retailers will be able to display a price list of the tobacco products they stock at every till. Shelf labels carrying the name and price of the product will be allowed, but there will be restrictions to ensure these do not become promotional tools.

And your staff will be relieved to know that it won't be an offence to restock the shelves unless they leave an open box of cigarettes on display or carry uncovered packs across the store, that is. Handing a pack over the counter to the customer will not be an offence, even if it's witnessed by a child.

The consequences of a slip-up are severe. The maximum penalty for breaking the rules is six months in prison and a fine of up to £5000.

Not for the first time, it's the retailers who are forced to take responsibility for enforcing the will of government - a challenge they will meet, as usual, with resourcefulness and creativity.