As you may have already read, Retail Express has heard from a huge number of retailers up and down the country about the impact of illicit tobacco on their stores.

The black market for tobacco is huge, but the problem doesn’t stop there. At least five of the retailers that we spoke to said that tobacco isn’t the only issue – black or grey-market booze is also hugely prevalent. The same dodgy retailers that are pushing non-UK duty paid tobacco are also selling non-UK duty paid vodka and beer.

They back up what Ravi Kaushal says, below. The big tobacco companies are running a strong education programme on black-market tobacco, and telling you, your customers and the MPs who represent you what to look for, and what the impact to the exchequer is.

The Federation of Wholesale Distributors has campaigned brilliantly throughout the last couple of years to help ensure the introduction of a Government-backed wholesaler registration scheme to protect law-abiding wholesalers. But as one of the retailers we spoke to for our tobacco story said – he never sees the guys he knows that sell illegal products through their pop-up money-shacks in the cash and carry. 

Ravi is surprisingly chipper about the issues in his area, but he’s in an affluent area where he can make his money from higher-margin items. Others won’t have that luxury. 

Shipping firm Barrington Research used a Freedom of Information request to find out about seizures from UK airports – and the amount of alcohol being seized is startling. There were just under 1,600 seizures last year – almost 80% more than in 2010. This included £36.8m worth of wine and £38.1m of spirits – figures vastly up on the preceding years numbers.

More is being seized – and I’d be very, very surprised that this doesn’t mean that more is getting through the net.

Registration of wholesalers begins 12 months from now – and retailers should only buy their alcohol from those signed up to the Government scheme. But in the meantime, it’s important for those honest, legitimate retailers – like Ravi – to report those stores that are buying from dodgy men in white vans, and do their bit to stop it at the source.