Stubbing out a cigarette on a calendar

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New analysis by KAM and Lake Research, commissioned by Philip Morris Limited (PML), has found that over a third (35%) of convenience store owners in England would stop the sale of cigarettes in favour of smoke-free products to help adult smokers switch.

The Big Switch Report was commissioned to discover whether convenience retailers in England were helping smokers switch away from cigarettes by improving access to, and awareness of, smoke-free products, like e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products.

The research involving 1,400+ convenience store owners and over 1,000 former adult smokers, reveals a growing movement of retailers feeling motivated into helping customers abandon cigarettes by shifting their businesses towards smoke-free products, and sheds new light on the important - and largely unseen role - convenience retailers are playing to help communities go smoke-free.

Kamran Hafeez of Wiggleys corner shop in Oxford said: “Smoke-free products are the future. It’s the way the market is going, so the sooner you start, the sooner you know more about the products, and you get confident selling them as well.”

Aman Uppal, who runs One Stop Mount Nod, a family-run convenience store in Coventry, said: “I’ve converted three generations of one family to smoke-free alternatives. As a retailer, I have an opportunity to introduce these products into my community and get people away from cigarettes which is something I believe in. I am seeing other retailers doing the same thing, which is hugely positive.”

John Hanna of Smokemart Convenience Store in Brighton added: “It is time the country moved forward with smoke-free products to help smokers who can’t quit. Raising awareness of smoke-free products in the store is very important. Plenty of customers want to kick the habit, but they can’t - they find it very difficult.”

Other key findings from the report include:

  • 59% of store owners consider the smoke-free category ‘the future of sales’
  • Almost half (47%) of store owners believe they could be more involved in helping adult smokers switch to smoke-free alternatives
  • Over half (52%) of store owners say their adult customers use smoke-free products to move away from cigarettes
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of former smokers now using smoke-free alternatives feel a convenience store is an appropriate place for smokers to be advised about smoke-free products

The report found several challenges preventing retailers from helping to switch smokers to alternative products. Many lack sufficient knowledge in the smoke-free category which has impacted consumer confidence. A percentage worry about building a sustainable business without combustible products.

There are also regional variations on the willingness to go completely smoke-free, with Coventry (58%) and Northampton (16%) at either ends of the spectrum.

Overall, the Big Switch offers a positive outlook as to how retailers in England could be accelerating the journey towards a smoke-free future, by helping smokers abandon cigarettes for good.

Christian Woolfenden, managing director at PML, said: “The Big Switch Report reveals how switching adult smokers from cigarettes to smoke-free products has become a new pillar of community-focused retailing. Rather than retaining customers as cigarette smokers, convenience retailers are building stronger connections over the countertop to improve awareness of, and access to, alternative products like e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products.

“As the only tobacco company purposefully working to phase out cigarettes completely, we will continue to support retailers, so they’re able to communicate the benefits of smoke-free alternatives to their adult customers who are unable to quit tobacco and nicotine products completely.”

James Lowman, chief executive at the Association of Convenience Stores, added: “Convenience store retailers are embedded in their communities, with a reach unlike any other sector in the UK grocery market.

“This community grounding of convenience stores enables the people running and working in stores to be acutely in tune with the needs of their customers, but retailers also need to look at data from wider research to keep abreast of trends.

“The e-cigarette and smoke-free category is changing fast, so it’s important to understand consumer attitudes and benchmark with your own experiences and sales information.”