With less than a week until the ban on menthol and capsule cigarettes comes into force from 20 May, convenience retailers across the county are making final preparations and ensuring that adult menthol smokers are well aware of the range of alternative that will be open to them.
Following C-Store and JTI’s roundtable event earlier this year, we caught up with independent retailer Anita Nye - manager, Eldred Drive Stores (Premier) Orpington, Kent - and JTI’s communications director Mark Yexley to find out how preparations were going.
How have you been communicating the ban to customers?
Anita: “As we do not have a gantry in store, with our tobacco products kept in drawers, most of our communication with customers has been verbal.
”However, we have signage and leaflets supplied by JTI visible in store and we welcome any questions from our customers.”
Mark Yexley: “The best thing you can do is ensure that you and your staff are knowledgeable about the upcoming legislation and aware of the alternative options available to adult smokers from 20 May so that you can answer any questions with confidence. Our dedicated Menthol Ban microsite includes a number of consumer-facing pages which you can also direct your customers to in order to find out more information.”
What are adult menthol smokers telling you they might do following the ban?
Anita: “When chatting to our customers, Logic Compact appears to be a popular choice for them – opting for mentholated flavour pods to use with the device. Other customers have said that they will stay in the cigarette category, switching to alternative products.”
Mark Yexley: “JTI expects most adult smokers to stay within the cigarette category and remain brand loyal. To cater to these needs, we have recently announced the launch of a series of new products with distinctive tobacco blends plus product and pack innovations ahead of the menthol and capsule cigarette ban.”
Will price will remain a key concern for smokers post-display ban?
Anita: “Our customers tend to opt for products with a value price point, and we don’t see this changing.”
Mark Yexley: “Yes, price will remain a key factor for existing adult smokers when choosing where to shop for tobacco. JTI recommends selling at rrp or below to maximise sales and avoid lost custom - retailers are of course free to sell JTI products at whatever price they choose.”
How prepared do you now feel about the ban?
Anita: “We have had a plan in place for quite a while now to ensure that we are prepared and remain compliant once the ban comes into effect.
”We constantly stay updated with details and any changes surrounding the legislation, and we have been offering alternative products to our customers for a few weeks now, so that they are aware of the options available.”
Mark Yexley: “With the menthol and capsule cigarette ban just days away, it is now more important than ever for retailers to ensure that they are fully prepared and have a plan in place ahead of 20 May.
“Retailers should ensure that they and their staff are aware of the details surrounding the upcoming legislation, including what will and won’t be affected, and that they have a plan in place to remain compliant after the ban. Failure to comply could lead to a fine, imprisonment or both.”
What range of alternatives are you offering, and will you extend this following the ban?
Anita: “We stock a selection of vapes, including the Logic brand which has been really successful amongst our customers. Nordic Spirit has also proved popular, and the fresh mint option is a great alternative for menthol smokers. We also stock tobacco accessories and will continue to do so following the ban. We are aware that JTI are launching its New Dual range, and to maintain a full range and cater to the needs of all our customers, this is something we will be stocking.”
Mark Yexley: “JTI expects most adult smokers to stay within the cigarette category and remain brand loyal, switching to an alternative variant. That’s why we are launching the New Dual range - a distinctive tobacco blend in a unique dual pack, with two sections of ten cigarettes, available across brands such as Sterling, Benson & Hedges and Sovereign.
“Whatever adult smokers do after the menthol ban, JTI has the alternatives covered. We would recommend stocking up on a wide range of products and maintaining a full range and availability of tobacco brands across the pricing scale.”
- JTI has a wide range of alternative products to meet differing adult smoker needs post the menthol and capsule cigarette ban.
- The ‘New Dual’ range (available across Sterling New Dual, Benson & Hedges New Blue Dual, Sovereign New Dual and Benson & Hedges New Dual) has been designed to provide adult smokers with a “new distinctive tobacco blend in a unique dual pack which now includes two sections of ten cigarettes.”
- The same blend will also be available across Sterling New Superkings Green, Benson & Hedges New Superkings Green, Berkeley New Superkings Green and Mayfair New Green.
- Sovereign New Dual’s new Flow Tech centre hole filter offers further product differentiation within the market by providing a firmer filter, quality smoking experience.
- JTI has also recently launched Sterling Dual Capsule Leaf Wrapped cigarillos which contain a peppermint capsule that smokers can click to release a menthol flavour.
- It has also extended its Logic Compact vaping range to include nine menthol flavours and its Logic EPIQ e-liquids range to include Peppermint and Berry Mint nicotine salts and Mint Royale High VG 70/30 e-liquids.
- JTI’s Nordic Spirit tobacco-free nicotine pouches are also available in a fresh mint variant.
Are you concerned about being left with stocks of menthol cigarettes after the ban?
Anita: “This is not something that we are concerned about, as we have been in contact with our rep, who has assured us that any leftover stock will be swapped out after the ban. We will continue to sell bestsellers up until 20 May, but we are assessing the situation daily to ensure that we are not stocking up on products that are not performing as well as others.”
Mark Yexley: “JTI representatives will exchange menthol and capsule stock held by every retailer who our sales reps visit as part of our standard 12-week call cycle. Whilst the current Covid-19 situation is clearly unprecedented, we are determined to continue to support our trade partners through this period of uncertainty.
“Should local JTI representatives not be able to visit stores immediately following the menthol & capsule ban on the 20 May 2020, retailers should ensure that they keep the JTI menthol and capsule stock that needs swapping separate from other stock.
“In the meantime, retailers who require assistance should contact their JTI representative by phone, visit the trade website JTI Advance or call the Customer Care Line on 0800 163503.”
For further Menthol Ban updates, visit JTI’s dedicated microsite at https://www.jtiadvance.co.uk/MentholBan2020.
The site also includes a number of consumer-facing pages as well as a newly launched interactive training module for retailers and their staff.