by Steven Lambert

Imperial Tobacco has written to “several thousand” of its best-performing independent retailers offering them a free gantry conversion ahead of the upcoming tobacco display ban.

The firm is contacting stores with high tobacco volumes urging them to sign up to its ‘best in class conversion service’, which will make them compliant ahead of legislation coming into force on 6 April 2015.

Gayatri Barua-Howe, communications manager at Imperial Tobacco, said: “This letter brings it to the fore so when reps next visit, retailers will be ready to sign the paperwork.”

Rival tobacco firm JTI has yet to reveal full details about its display ban support for retailers using its tobacco gantries.

However, NFRN chief executive Paul Baxter advised retailers to consider all gantry options before signing on the dotted line.

I wouldn’t sign an agreement with a tobacco company if you paid me
– Paul Baxter, NFRN

Speaking at the NFRN Scottish centenary conference this week, Mr Baxter said: “We’ve written to the two main companies to accuse them of abandoning independents.

“Our challenge is to come up with ways to support retailers who are not getting support.

“We are working with gantry suppliers to cost up options. I wouldn’t sign an agreement with a tobacco company if you paid me. They will ask you to stock more products than you need and to stock what they want you to stock. Think carefully before doing that.”

NFRN public affairs manager Adrian Roper also revealed that NFRN Commercial will offer members a package of refit support: “from the simplest options to substantial refits”.

Cardiff retailer Mark Dudden, owner of AJ & B Dudden in Cardiff, said: “I haven’t received the letter from Imperial yet, but I know a few retailers who have, and I expect most to sign up.

“I am not going to get my gantry converted. I’m going to totally change things around. I’ve got lots of space under the counter, so will move my tobacco there and replace the gantry with something I can make money on.”

What are your plans for your tobacco gantry? Tell us below