With less than one month before tobacco manufacturers are forced to stop making cigarettes and rolling tobacco in small packs, convenience store retailers and staff are being urged to communicate the changes to customers now, or risk losing sales.
Consumer awareness of the new European Tobacco Directive (EUTPD2) laws which come into force on 20 May, along with plain packaging, remains worryingly low.
According to a survey of 2,532 shoppers carried out exclusively for Convenience Store by HIM in mid-April, 55% were totally unaware of the impending legislation.
Philip Morris Ltd sales director Jerry Margolis said retailers needed to start having conversations with their customers about the legislation “as soon as possible”.
“The importance for retailers to plan ahead cannot be overstated,” he said.
Retailers would also need to become true tobacco category experts and tell customers about their alternatives as and when products became out of stock, he added.
Anticipating exactly when small branded packs would start to run out was “almost impossible,” BAT’s head of legal affairs Ron Ridderbeekx said.
As such BAT is also advising retailers to start communicating the changes to shoppers now and not to “panic buy”. “Stick to your normal stock levels. Exactly when branded products and small packs will run out will depend on how much stock is in the market and we don’t know if consumers will buy more or buy less. It really is a case of suck it and see,” he added.
In Paisley, Des Barr of Sinclair Barr Newsagents has been telling adult smokers about the changes for weeks. “It’s vital to be upfront with smokers. It shows that we understand change is coming and are helping them adapt to it,” he said.
“Most people we are telling are quite shocked and knew nothing about the legislation, which is a concern.”
“We’ve been telling our shoppers for a couple of months. However, it would have helped if we had some leaflets from government or manufacturers.”
Charles Brading, Vic’s Stores, Isle of Wight
”My staff and I have been warning customers for some time. Retailers should be communicating with customers now and demonstrating that they are fully equipped to deal with the changes.”
Ralph Patel (NFRN national president), The Look-in Woodmansterne, Surrey
EUTPD Best practice advice from PML
Arrange skus in alphabetical order - it will be a challenge to find stock organised by brand family.
Transition the 10s space into 20s space. As products sell through, shoppers will still be looking for the same brand.
Stick to rrp. Pricemarked packs will disappear, and 82% of shoppers think they are good value, so if there is a hike in price it could create a problem. Train staff on the pricing policy.
Tell customers about alternatives, if and when products become out of stock.
Take extra care. Plain packs will look similar so it will be easy to give out the wrong product.