With the much-heralded changes in tobacco packaging coming into effect earlier this year, we thought we would take a look at how the new rules are being implemented and consider how retailers are making it work for them.
Despite the smoking rate being at the lowest levels ever in England, according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), tobacco sales are worth a whopping £871 million to the forecourt sector alone. With around 8 million smokers in the UK, the whole market is worth over £15 billion, so there’s a lot of money out there, waiting to be spent.
It’s an audience well worth accommodating, even if we all know that we should really be providing options to help them cut-down as, let’s face it, we all know it’s not good for our health! However, how many smokers buy something else when they pop in to pick up their tobacco? How much revenue would you lose if you no longer sold tobacco at all?
With the new rules in place, the space behind the counter, traditionally allocated to tobacco, can be used for other things. But the success of this depends on your fixtures and fittings.
For many, sliding fabric doors don’t come with many options – either for stocking or promoting other products. But moving tobacco products to under the counter can also be fraught with danger as customers might not realise that products are still in stock.
However, hiding products below the counter can make it easier for staff – especially in Scotland, where there’s a time limit for the opening and showing of tobacco products – as they have longer to rummage about to find the correct packet. This can take longer and means that queues are potentially building-up and customers are getting frustrated. Not a great outcome in anyone’s eyes!
The hybrid option – secure cabinet with storage for tobacco and space to promote other products – is proving popular. They remind customers that you are still stocking products – as they stand in the space where customers are used to looking for tobacco products. Some of the cabinets are so robust that stock can be left securely overnight. Some, like those sold by HTEC, have even beaten some fairly determined thieves, if you’ve seen the YouTube footage which went viral about a year ago.
Some retailers are using the door space to promote high-value items which customers might otherwise forget such as phone accessories and razors. Other use it for the popular alternative to smoking – vaping. Sales of vaping products have rocketed in the last couple of years and is now worth over £1.76 billion (source: The Guardian) and growing so it’s worth considering.
Non-compliance with the new law is a criminal offence, so retailers really do need to think about how they can use their fixtures and fittings to help maintain the prompt levels of service which customers expect and to remind them that they continue to sell tobacco products. However, there are more positive ways to deal with the new legislation and they aren’t that difficult to find or even too expensive.