JTI will invest millions of pounds in making 13,800 tobacco gantries in independent stores compliant with the display ban before 6 April.

Retailers in Scotland – where only a small window on the gantry can be opened – will be the first to see their shops transformed from October.

The Benson and Hedges manufacturer is the first of the major tobacco companies to announce its level of support for the trade.

In an interview with RN, JTI head of sales Andy Stevens revealed a new trade-facing website – JTI Advance – which will give retailers information on new products, planograms, legal updates and staff training.

Mr Stevens said the sooner doors were fitted, the better prepared retailers would be for next April.

“Whether you start complying three weeks hence or four months hence, does it really make a difference? You’re better off getting used to it,” he said.

“The competitive advantage of being uncovered is fairly minimal.”

Mr Stevens said it would be crucial for retailers to maintain good availability and depth of range after 6 April to reassure customers they would continue to have access to their regular brands.

Whether you start complying three weeks hence or four months hence, does it really make a difference? You’re better off getting used to it

He said JTI Advance would help retailers to understand the category in the dark market, along with the manufacturer’s 200-strong field team.

Speaking about the website, he said: “We can engage to build on some of the key areas where retailers need support which could be on profitability, stock level and availability, which is key going into the restricted market.”

RN understands that Imperial Tobacco will convert a similar number of gantries as JTI – in line with findings of a reader survey which suggested a third of the trade would be left to make their own gantries compliant.

Read the full interview with Mr Stevens in next week’s RN.

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