I would suspect that, like us, tobacco sales make up a large chunk of your sales. It may not have the greatest margin, but it certainly does add to bottom-line profits. It’s an area which has been impacted hugely by new legislation and when we realised that changes were coming, we decided that we had to do something to improve things.

First we reviewed sales for slow sellers – we had a lot of them! When was the last time you did this for your store? Your epos system has all of the numbers, so it’s time to start making it work for you. Once we had removed the dead lines, our range had gone from 178 lines in February 2015 to 38 today. The result is that customers haven’t been walking out and our sales are up in units sold.

We have also tried out two different display systems: first Servertab, the overhead gantry option. Now this is just my personal opinion, but I loved this option to start with. It had lots of positives; freeing up space behind the counter and so on. The problem came once plain packaging was introduced, as it took staff too long to find the correct packet for the customer. We had the same problem on our traditional gantries – a sea of plain packets that all looked the same. So we retired our Servertab and took the jump and installed Navarra vending units. Yes, I know this is the geeky solution to selling tobacco, but my customers and staff love it. Our high-tech solution has increased service speed, increased space for other lines behind the counter, and improved security.

There are lots of companies that offer vending units, but maybe next time you go to the National Convenience Show (16-18 April, Birmingham NEC), take a closer look and review your gantry options. They may not be cheap, but how much are you spending to operate your cheaper option? How long are your customers having to wait? Does it make sense to have your highest-value line in basically an open box?

A quick search on Google will show just how big a problem cigarette robberies have become. Storing our tobacco in a locked steel box fixed to the wall and floor certainly has helped me sleep better. That expensive gantry may be a smart move, saving you in terms of cash and hassle.