Tobacco sales in large convenience stores and supermarkets are taking a hit following the implementation of a display ban in England on April 6.

Early indications from sample stores supplied by Imperial Tobacco revealed a sales decline of 3% on average, Imperial Tobacco’s communications manager Iain Watkins told Convenience Store.

“We have witnessed slight increases in transaction times, leading to shopper frustrations and confusion over whether stores continue to sell tobacco,” he added.

In Ascot, Berkshire, large Budgens store owner Vince Maloney said the longer service times and additional checks and processes were frustrating both staff and shoppers.

“A couple of shoppers have stormed out in frustration at the ban. There’s been next to no public communication about the changes so shoppers simply don’t understand why the Tesco Express across the road is displaying cigarettes and I’m not,” he said.

According to a recent survey of 4,000 shoppers by HIM, 80% of respondents were not aware that the display ban didn’t apply to small format retailers.

“Staff not being able to locate products isn’t the biggest factor behind the longer serving times, as their position on the gantry hasn’t changed,” Vince added. “It’s the fact that smokers can no longer see the price on shelf. It makes them anxious and so they ask to see the price list. It’s the time it takes them to read through that, that makes the whole process longer.

“However, it won’t be long before all this is overcome,” he added. “Staff will start to automatically remember the prices, and smokers will get used to the doors.”

Dave Worsfold, whose Farrants newsagents in Cobham, Surrey is unaffected by the ban, said his tobacco sales were up thanks to the Easter rush and the ban, which had forced the Waitrose next to his store to cover its gantry. “I’ll be monitoring sales very closely over the next few weeks and would advise my fellow independent retailers to do so. I am confident that they will increase as a result of the ban and that we will benefit. Shoppers have so much choice these days that they won’t stand for inconvenience.”