Retailer’s view: Naweed Ashraf
“Our tobacco sales are up compared with last year, not a lot maybe four or five cartons more a week, but there has been a wee change.
“Lambert & Butler, Richmond, John Player Specials and Mayfair are all the best-sellers, and rolling tobacco is also growing. Pricemarked packs are doing really well because people feel they are getting a better buy. It seems all the new products are pricemarked and it works well. It’s the same for anything that’s pricemarked, whether that’s cigarettes or biscuits, as people think they are getting a bargain.
“Tobacco is important to the business, but at the end of the day it is just one of a number of facilities such as alcohol, OTC medicines, the lottery and PayPoint that bring customers in, and you don’t make a lot from tobacco, anyway.
“I don’t think there is much more cigarette companies could do to help. They come in, check the gantry, clean it up and it is merchandised the way they tell you. “I’m not too concerned about the display ban because if customers want them they will sell even if they are under the counter.”
Naweed Ashraf, Shieldhill Stores (Premier), Falkirk
Retailer’s view: Ed Fox
“Our tobacco sales are steady compared with last year, but I’ve noticed a switch to cheaper brands. I’m in an affluent area and never imagined that would happen.
“Despite the hype our rolling tobacco sales are fairly low, but I think that is because there is so much contraband around here. The store is only a few miles away from two large racecourses which each hold regular markets where the trade in such goods is common.
“I am also concerned about the display ban as I fear that people might not realise we sell tobacco. I go to Ireland a lot so know how bad it looks out there. I would also think twice about selling tobacco if I had to pay for changes to the gantry myself. “Cigarettes are the only reason I get broken into, so you start to wonder why you sell them profit margins are no more than 30p a packet.”
Ed Fox, Pollingtons, Weybridge, Surrey
Retailer’s view: Paul Cheema
“Our tobacco sales are down on last year, but that’s because we’ve had a Costco open up on our doorstep. It is supposed to be a wholesale place, but any private individual can go in there and it has knocked about 5% off our tobacco sales per week.
“Economy brands are growing because smokers are trading down. Premium brand smokers are very loyal, though. But in the mid-range there is no brand loyalty and they just look at the price. Those who were smoking Mayfair have gone down to Richmond; those smoking Richmond have gone on to Windsor Blue. The younger smokers are moving into rolling tobacco brands such as Amber Leaf.
“Tobacco accounts for a good chunk of our business and we have campaigned against the proposed display ban by signing the C-Store and ACS petition and the petition from the tobacco industry that was sent to the House of Commons. We all need to fight it.
“I totally disagree with the idea that a display ban will discourage underage smoking, but it will have an impact on businesses. An average counter costs about £7,000 to install so if you have to modify your counter it is going to cost quite a few thousand. The people who smoke will continue to smoke.”
Paul Cheema, Malcolm’s Stores (Costcutter), Coventry
Retailer’s view: Mike Bird
“Our like-for-like cigarette sales are up 6.8% on last year and tobacco is up 12.5%. People are trading down, both into cheaper cigarette brands and rolling tobacco.
“Convenience stores have always been very reliant on alcohol and tobacco, and for that very reason we took a decision over a year ago to concentrate more on fresh foods in light of the proposed display ban.
“We felt that if we didn’t make an effort to grow other areas of our business it could have a major impact. We have seen more than 400% growth in fresh food so I am now less concerned, although will continue to fight it all the way, of course.
“One thing I am worried about is any extra cost that I might have to bear. I know that right now the major players are saying that they would not fund any gantry alterations, but I would be shocked if this were the case.”
Mike Bird, Costcutter, Exmouth, Devon
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