In the few weeks since new EU tobacco legislation and standardised packaging was enforced for manufacturers, convenience retailers are already finding out-of-stocks and fits and starts in supply.

Just three weeks after the new laws, which also banned pricemarked packs (PMPs), Devon Premier retailer Dan Cocks said stocks of popular 10s with PMPs were already diminishing. “I’ve had my first note from Booker to say that L&B 10s in PMPs and Richmond 10s in PMPs would soon be substituted for larger formats in non-PMP formats.

“I’m surprised at how early this has happened, particularly as we had been told by the manufacturers that it would be ‘business as usual’ for much longer. I suspect the manufacturers stopped producing PMPs long before the 20 May deadline. Instead, it seems they were focusing on limited-edition packs and new product development in 17s and 19s, which now feels like a waste of time.”

Bipin Haria of Seaford News in East Sussex is also experiencing supply glitches at his local wholesaler. “I’ve not come across standardised packs yet, but PMPs are becoming harder to find. Some days they are available in my wholesaler and others they aren’t. These fits and starts are frustrating for us, but particularly for adult smokers who still don’t fully understand why this is happening. Last week we spent lots of time explaining to shoppers that PMPs were no longer available and this week we’re having to explain that we’ve got them again. It’s confusing and appears unprofessional.”

Bestway group trading director Richard Booth said PMPs were being replaced by manufacturers: “Generally, stocks fluctuate depending on deliveries. We do not think there has been any significant stock-building by customers because many of the packs will be available for some months. However we are seeing some PMPs being replaced with non-PMPs by the manufacturers. As yet, all of the smaller pack sizes are still available.”


Waiting game

” We’ve been struggling to get hold of PMPs for a while. It’s as though they are only drizzling through the supply chain. I think the larger wholesalers must have been able to stockpile big amounts, but for the smaller ones this obviously hasn’t been possible. ”

Arif Ahmed, Ahmed’s News, Coventry


” We haven’t noticed any shortages yet, but I suspect it won’t be long before the changes really start to bite. ”

Susie Hawkins, director Simon Smith Group

The score on the law

The EUTPD came into force on 20 May. Under the new rules, cigarettes can no longer be produced in packs of less than 20 and rolling tobacco in packs of less 
than 30g.

Manufacture of flip-top boxes has also been banned, and the size of on-pack health warnings has been increased.

The UK government has also introduced plain packaging for cigarettes and rolling tobacco. Retailers have until 20 May 2017 to sell through existing stock.

Bestway is urging retailers to stick to rrps to avoid confusion and maintain consumer confidence.