Manufacturers have been deluged with calls from thousands of increasingly frantic retailers looking for a last-minute fix to comply with next month’s tobacco display ban legislation.

With stores legally required to go dark in just over one week’s time, some providers told RN they are turning desperate stores away.

Others have reported experiencing problems of their own, with demand for doors and other options outstripping supply.

CJ Retail Solutions is one company affected by both manufacturing delays and a flood of calls from anxious stores. “We’ve had unprecedented demand,” said sales and marketing director Mike Houghton.

“We guarantee that all the people who we’ve agreed deals with – about 350 stores – will have a solution by the deadline. But we have had thousands of other enquiries too. In the last three weeks we’ve had a huge amount of stores who haven’t got a solution calling and we’ve had to turn a lot down. We’ve had problems getting the doors too, but we guarantee we’ll get a solution.”

Mukesh Patel, of MG News in Twickenham, west London, is one of those affected. He said: “We’ve paid and had the frame put up, but we’re waiting for the doors. They’ve postponed a few times, but they’ve promised they’ll get it done by Monday [30 March].”

With the clock ticking we hope that most small shopkeepers are ready to go dark

Another supplier, Tobacco Display Screens, said it too was experiencing hundreds of retailer phone calls.

“We’re still getting 150 calls every day. Everyone who ordered by the 20 March deadline will get theirs, but others we can’t promise. We’re working flat out,” said Alex Hanson from the company.

Meanwhile, the NFRN has stressed that doing nothing is not an option and urged all stores to sort out their solutions ahead of the impending deadline.

NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter said: “With the clock ticking we hope that most small shopkeepers are ready to go dark. If they aren’t, a comprehensive package of constructive advice and support can be found on our website.”