tobacco gantrySo, we’re one giant step closer to the introduction of a tobacco display ban following a government vote in its favour yesterday and the publication of a consultation on how to introduce it in-store.

Obviously, this causes all sorts of issues for retailers about how to comply, how much it will cost, and what potential long-term effects it could have on their business. These issues are understandably huge to the livelihoods of retailers. But what if we take the draft consultation as read, and assume it’s definitely coming in: what will this do to the tobacco market in this country? How will new products sell if they can’t be advertised and nobody can see them properly?

This week saw the launch of a new menthol variant of the Pall Mall 19s range, which followed hot on the heels of the London-only launch of Winston, and recent activity in the roll-your-own sector with the launch of Benson & Hedges rolling tobacco, among other things.

But when the display ban comes in, what will happen? The government’s draft consultation requires retailers to fit doors or flaps that only allow an area slightly larger than a sheet of A3 paper to be seen by customers when they are being served tobacco. I can’t see it being worth anyone’s while to introduce a new product that they won’t be able to tell anyone about – and asking retailers to try and promote every new tobacco variant on their own would be a step too far.

Remember, you’re not only promoting new products for the benefit of the manufacturers: selling these products is a vital part of your business. You need to ensure that your regular tobacco customers know what you sell now, and that they can rely on you to have this in stock. You need to promote these new products to the maximum now, because the width of your range and your reliability as a well-stocked retailer could be vital when customers can no longer see what you have on sale.

These new launches are vital, not only in the short term to offer consumers a great range now, but also when the shutters come down in a couple of years – the effort you put in now to sell your range to your customers could be the difference between them taking the time to pop into your shop or go up the road to someone who they’re sure will have the full range.