Pretty soon - 20 May to be exact - you won’t be able to sell ciggies in branded packs. Double cover up. This will give Jayesh Patel a problem to the tune, he reckons, of between £600-£700 in unsold Philip Morris stock: Malboro 20s, Marlboro rolling tobacco and Chesterfield.
Jayesh said he knew it wouldn’t sell, but his old rep managed to sell it to him. After a few months he complained and the rep said don’t worry, we’ll sort it out. Then he got a new rep and the tune changed. She told him that Philip Morris would not be swapping stock with the new sizes/designs.
He currently has about £1,500-worth left and since he hasn’t sold any in the past six months, he expects to be faced with a big loss - even if he reduces prices. “So it will be a few hundred minimum,” he says.
He adds that his other reps have been brilliant. JTI, Imperial and BAT have all taken back stock in the old sizes and packaging. He reasons that, since they will claim back the tax, which amounts to 75% of the price of tobacco, they can repackage the product to become compliant again.
I asked Philip Morris to comment and this was the reply. “Our priority is to support our retailers through these times of significant change. Our field force is working closely to assist with the sell-through of our products before the May deadline.
“In December 2016 we wrote to all our direct customers, stating that we will support them in managing stock levels. Specifically, the letter outlined our returns procedure including that of stock which would no longer be compliant under the TPD2.
“Throughout 2016 we worked closely with retailers to help them prepare for the TPD2 and plain packaging legislation. We provided leaflets with practical advice, our field force engaged directly with retailers, and we placed information in key trade titles.
“To date we have transitioned the majority of our SKUs and stopped all orders of non-compliant stock in mid-February to enable the trade to sell through. From the beginning of March all orders of 10-packs will be cut off entirely.”
And it concluded: “We take all complaints seriously and will be looking into the matters raised by Mr Patel further.”
I sent this response to Jayesh and he labelled it a political response. “Lot of words but no substance, not telling us what we would like to know.”
I suggested to Jayesh that when Philip Morris contacts him that he asks how he goes about reclaiming all that tax he has paid on the product.
What has your experience been?