The opinion-formers on radio and TV seem to think people will be breaking their habit of a lifetime left, right and centre. I wonder how falling demand will affect prices and margins?

Rowland Craven, who runs Craven Stores in Halifax, West Yorkshire and who is also on the Yorkshire Independent Grocers’ Association Council, is calling for a campaign to crack what he labels ‘the cartel’ on cigarette pricing.

“You can’t get unpriced at the cash and carry,” he says, “and margins have gone down to 5%. With lower margins on phone top-ups, the high cost of fuel and wages, the new licensing costs – what are we supposed to do?”

He trades on a little terraced housing estate. “In 16 years of retailing I’ve never known it so bad. The government thinks we’re a bottomless pit.”

Rowland believes the independent needs 20% as a minimum margin on groceries and 10% on cigarettes.

Question is: is anyone other than the independent trade listening?

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