Just over a month after the tobacco display ban was introduced in stores of 3,000 sq ft and over, many small outlets are reporting sales hikes of more than 20%.
While the supermarkets are floundering, close community links and top-notch customer service are fuelling tobacco sales in England’s independent retailers.
Amit Patel of Belvedere News Food and Wine in South-East London said his tobacco sales had grown by 20% since April.
“Shoppers who have attempted to purchase tobacco at the multiples have not been served as per their expectations. They are not able to see pricing at the point of sale, or a full range of product offering. Slow service is also a big problem. On my recent visit to Asda in Bexleyheath I noticed that they had recruited an extra person to stand behind the tobacco kiosks purely to look for stock!”
Sheffield Premier retailer Vrinder Singh also said the display ban was proving to be a “big opportunity” for his store.
“We’ve seen a lot of people complaining about Tesco as a result of the tobacco display ban. They’re saying that the queues are too long. They come to us to buy cigarettes, but then they’re picking up other products too.”
The comments were indicative of the whole, Steven Fox, Booker’s sales director for retail said. “The feedback we are receiving from our customers is very positive. Incremental sales are growing and they are seeing new shoppers in their store,” he added.
Large independent stores subject to the ban seem to be faring better than their major multiple counterparts, possibly due to friendlier service.
In Gloucestershire, Budgens retailer Guy Warner said his large store sales were “running almost level,” while in Cambridgshire, Jonathan James said sales in all three of his large stores were unchanged.
“Service times were slowed at first, but we’ve got the right staff to overcome problems,” he added.
“Tobacco sales have increased in both my stores by approximately 20% since the display ban. My shop in East Grinstead is not far from Sainsbury’s and I have had customers complaining about their slow service. Customers are being handed a manual when they enquire about the prices which takes so much longer, and they are only allowed one manual on each till. “
Essential Convenience, Horsham
“Tobacco sales have increased by more than 10% since the display ban. Shoppers are telling me that they have left the supermarkets in frustration. With gantries covered up, staff are struggling to tell customers what other options they have on offer if their first choice is not in stock.”
Chilbolton Village Stores, Hampshire