With prices rising, minimum formats in place and illicit tobacco gaining a monopoly in familiar branded packaging, the tobacco trade is experiencing unprecedented pressures. Toby Hill takes a look at the impact on three retailers
The view from Glasgow
Illicit tobacco has increased and will continue to get worse. There’s a minimum entry point of £7.25 for tobacco, and people are willing to take the risk to pay £5 or £6 from the pub or a mate. I even saw a Facebook post advertising cut-price cigarettes. It’s definitely having an impact: we’ve taken a hit in our cigarettes, and they’re important for our footfall. I’d like to see the police take it more seriously – it’s obvious where these cigarettes being sold. We’ve got to follow all these regulations which make our business more difficult so they should be supporting us in doing that.
Martin Lightfoot – Londis Solo Convenience, Baillieston
The view from Torquay
Cigarette sales have fallen by 20% in one of our stores. Now 17-packs and pricemarking have gone, people aren’t willing to pay £9 for a pack of fags – but they’re not giving up, they’re buying on the black market or duty-free instead. I’ve got a customer who bought a pouch of Amber Leaf for £5 from Facebook, for example. I just tell people they’re going to get ill if they smoke black market cigs with asbestos in them. The government should be focusing on the counterfeit stuff rather than just the legitimate stuff. The police should be going into pubs and council estates and watching what’s going on.
Chris Herring – Londis Shiphay Post Office, Torquay
The view from south Wales
I’m not aware of any problems with illicit trade, in fact my sales are going up. Everyone is buying twenties instead, and while it’s the same percentage margin, in cash terms my turnover is increasing. I took a bit of a gamble and kept buying 10-packs for a long as possible, which brought people here when they couldn’t find tens elsewhere. Then my prices are set a little lower than in the other shops in town – a One-Stop, Co-op and Spar – so those customers have kept coming back. Now it’s more of a level playing field I’ll just stick to RRP, though I’ll still be cheaper than the others.
Marija Lewis – Bargain Booze, Bridgend
A scourge in numbers: how illicit tobacco ruins businesses
- £30,000 lost, on average, to every UK convenience store
- 1 in 10 Londoners have purchased illicit tobacco online
- 1 in 8 London retailers sell illicit tobacco
- 392 billion illegal cigarettes are estimated to be smoked worldwide each year
- 2x more expensive to buy a packet of 20 cigarettes in the UK compared to Spain
- 13% of ready made cigarettes smoked in the UK come from an illicit source