As many of you will have read in the 6 December issue, JTI has been test purchasing in some 2,500 stores in the North West. Following a retailer’s failure to challenge it will re-test, and if this elicits no challenge it will offer in-store training.

I got a fax from a Londis retailer in the Manchester area who complained on behalf of his staff, who had a bit of an ‘age rage’ after a secret shopper’s visit.

“I have mature staff. Why did we get a failure? The person was old enough to purchase and my employee was upset. She is 60+ and knows more than I do about retailing. You can’t tell her how to suck eggs.”

JTI says it is spending £400,000 on this support programme and that it started in the North West because it has the most under-aged smokers, and Trading Standards have pointed the finger at small shops as a key source. It is also the case that trading standards officers have become somewhat stretched. JTI also says it ran a survey of 500 indies and nearly one-third said they had no formal training in place.

It is expected that the programme will roll out nationally eventually.

I can sympathise with the retailer, though, who is trying to keep things peaceful at both ends of the age spectrum and getting awarded a ‘failure’ in the process. Still, he will get a free poster kit.