Heath Michael, director of policy, government and corporate relations at the Australian Retailers Associa

tion, tells Retail Express how plain tobacco packaging is affecting his members Down Under.

Retail Express: What is the situation like Down Under?

Heath Michael: Clearly the convenience side of the market have some significant issues around plain packaging. We’ve been through what was a rushed- through implementation with zero consultation and no evidence base.

Heath Michael 2 Heath Michael from Australia

RE: What are the next steps in Australia?

HM: We’ve still got a review yet to happen at the end of 2014 on what the outcomes have been – both whether or not the market and sales are reduced.  Every indication is they haven’t reduced from their long term declining trend.

RE: What has the effect been on retailers?

HM: The cost of implementation service times training costs and very importantly illegal product. Every indication is that there’s been a big shift since plain packaging to cheaper product and loose tobacco product. Dead stock was a significant problem – especially for sophisticated smaller retailers without the types of stock control and PoS systems of the bigger shops.

RE: You’re set to meet Sir Cyril Chantler this week, who is reporting to the UK Government on any health effects of plain packaging. What advice would you offer the UK about its plain packaging proposals?

HM: In Australia it was rushed in with no evidence. You have the opportunity to have some evidence and to make a decision based around that evidence.

RE: So should the UK wait for the conclusion in December 2014 in Australia then?

HM: Why you’d need to rush it in without seeing what the outcome has been in Australia is a question your retailers need to ask of your government.

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