Imperial makes last-minute pricing U-turn due to cost-of-living crisis

Imperial tobacco said the delayed government budget and concerns around inflationary pressures sparked a cancellation of its planned price rises

Imperial Tobacco has warned stores of a last-minute U-turn on price rises planned for 31 October.

Messages sent to stores by Imperial seen by betterRetailing said: “Following the government’s announcement that a full Autumn Statement will take place on 17 November 2022, Imperial Ltd has taken the decision to rescind its planned [price increase].

The message added: “Increasing the price of tobacco products at a time when there are growing concerns about the cost-of-living crisis will only exacerbate the inflationary pressures experienced by smokers.”

This price rise was initially announced on 3 October. Store owners that had stocked up in preparation of wholesale price rises expressed frustration at the timing of the move. Nasif Akram, owner of Zuby Convenience Store in Swalwell, Tyne and Wear told betterRetailing: “They had plenty of time to change this earlier. A lot of people have been stung a lot worse than we have and we’d bought £5-6k extra. Obviously it’s not too bad as it will all sell through but it’s not ideal.”

A spokesperson for Imperial told betterRetailing: “Like all manufacturers, Imperial’s recommended retail prices [RRP] are regularly reviewed and we try to give our trade customers advanced notice of any changes to our RRPs. Our RRPs are our recommended prices only and are subject to change from time to time. Retailers remain free at all times to determine the selling price of their own products.”

The change, announced just three days before the price rise was scheduled to go live, is the second last-minute price increase by Imperial in a year. A price battle between JTI and Imperial in November 2021 led Imperial to change prices several times in a single day, causing extra work for stores.

The message sent to stores rescinding the planned price rise also stated Regal Signature would remain available to order and that limited edition 32g and kingsize 21 packs would become available from the expected date of the budget.

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