A shocking 15% of retailers would choose to sell up or close their store if government proposals to ban the display of tobacco were to go ahead. That was one of the key findings of Convenience Store's latest survey.
The poll of 203 retailers, conducted by The Knowledge Store on behalf of Convenience Store, indicates the full scale of the impact the government should take into account before it sanctions a ban on tobacco display.
The fact that one in six retailers polled would get out of retailing isn't the only disturbing finding. More than half of respondents said that a ban on displaying tobacco would cause their sales to drop a lot, 34% a bit, and only 15% said it would have little impact.
Tobacco is clearly an important category for most retailers. Two-thirds said that cigarette sales were very important to their business, and 21% quite important. Tobacco sales also help boost turn-over across their businesses. The vast majority - 89% - said that cigarette sales prompt other purchases.
With the estimated cost of making the necessary changes to move tobacco out of sight running at £2,000 per store, 56% of respondents said they could not afford to do so. Of those, 30% would attempt to get finance, and 11% might stop selling tobacco altogether.
If branding on packs was banned, 62% said trading in tobacco would be difficult - 44% quite difficult and 18% very difficult. And sales would drop for 80% of retailers if 10s were banned - 37% by a lot and 43% by a bit.
And if the government's reasoning for banning 10s is to reduce youth smoking, it's barking up the wrong tree because 63% of retailers said younger and older smokers purchase packs of 10 in equal measure.
The government could give the illegitimate trade a boost if its proposals get the green light, too, as 71% of retailers believe the measures would increase bootlegging and smuggling, while only 10% think they would reduce youth smoking.
On a more positive note, just over half said they could use the space taken up by tobacco for other products if forced to remove them from display.
Q1 How important are cigarette sales to your business?
Very important 66%
Quite important 21%
Not very important 8%
Not at all important 2%
Q2 Do cigarette sales prompt other purchases in your store?
Don't know 2%
Q3 If there was a ban on displaying tobacco, how would it affect your business?
Sales would drop a lot 51%
Sales would drop a bit 34%
Not much impact 15%
Q4 Do you think you'll be able to use the space for something else?
Don't know 14%
Q5 It's estimated that moving tobacco from visible display would cost each store £2,000. Could you afford to make those changes?
Don't know 18%
Q5a If no, what might you do?
Attempt to get finance 30%
Sell up/close store 15%
Stop selling tobacco 11%
Q6 If branding on packs was banned, how difficult would it make trading in tobacco?
Very difficult 18%
Quite difficult 44%
Not very difficult 24%
Not at all difficult 14%
Q7 If packs of 10 cigarettes were banned, what impact would it have on your business?
Sales would drop a lot 37%
Sales would drop a bit 43%
Not much impact 20%
Q8 Who mainly buys 10s packs currently?
Both younger and older smokers equally 63%
Mainly younger smokers 23%
Mainly older smokers 14%
Q9 Do you think the proposed measures will increase the illegitimate trade in tobacco?
Don't know 16%
Q10 Do you think any of the proposed measures would reduce youth smoking?
Don't know 15%
Source: The Knowledge Store