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How long does it take to get a handle on whether something is working or not? Most retailers will try new products or variants of existing ones as they come on sale, and see whether they work for them. Some will give them a little bit more time to bed in, while others will be much more wary about giving over valuable space to something that is unproven.
Whatever the time scale, you generally know your own store best and it won’t take you long – perhaps a week or two, maybe a month – to find out whether a particular launch is ‘for you’ or not.
The reason I ask this is because this week we went over to Cork in Ireland to see how, nine months after it was first implemented, the tobacco ban is affecting retailers. There were a number of key questions that we could, and indeed did, ask those on the shop floors in the town – far too many to list here – but the key headline responses were very interesting indeed.
Although only a relative few retailers were polled, we only found one person who said that they had seen a downturn in trade as a result of the ban. However, one of the other key points that came from the trip was the increased proliferation of counterfeit tobacco.
We know that big tobacco companies and the TRA have been saying this for a while now, but when statistics show that only one third of all cigarettes smoked in Ireland now are bought from a legitimate Irish store, we know that something is wrong. The tactics that the smugglers and illicit dealers are using are becoming more and more personal as well. Posting price-lists through the letterboxes of consumers, for example, seems to be a particularly low and crafty way of hawking your illicit wares.
So while the Government’s much-heralded plans to reduce sales of tobacco by simply covering up what you’re selling may not have worked directly, it seems to be working very well indirectly.
The continued rise of counterfeit tobacco will be a definite problem as time goes on. While giving it nine months to see what’s happening may seem like enough, it probably is too early to tell at the moment what sort of long-term effect the ban is having on retailers.
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