As the introduction of plain packaging continues to look inevitable, Bestway’s category controller Richard Booth has his concerns over what issues the lack of price-marks may bring to independent retailers.

As a wholesaler, Bestway shares retailers’ concerns over the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco.

As an industry, we were told that its introduction would be a consultative process with any learnings from Australia taken into account.

It seems that the many thousands of submissions to the DoH consultations have been ignored, or that is what the silence would suggest, and that despite there being no conclusive evidence
coming out of Australia that smoking rates have diminished, the coalition are pressing ahead regardless.

My belief is the introduction of plain packs will cause confusion in retail stores not only from a product selection point of view, but also from a re-stocking perspective. Cigarettes will continue to be available in branded cartons at wholesalers so we will see very little, if any, difference in tobacco rooms.

However, when a retailer moves cartons from stockroom to gantry, will he have to empty out the packs to avoid customers seeing the branded carton? Similarly, will our customers have to cover their tobacco purchases as they shop in the main part of the depot and at tillpoint?

The major issue for me will be the removal of price-marking from packs. Price-marking on cigarettes is a key driver to purchase as the smoker has clear visibility of the price of the product.

With removal of the price mark, the independent retailer no longer has a mechanic to shout that he is giving value for money and my fear is smokers will perceive that they can get a better price from the multiple chains.

This is obviously not true and we need to start working together with suppliers and retailers to see how we can protect the market share of the independent trade.

There is also the probability that plain packaging will be a charter for the illicit trade. Tobacco sales are falling in the total market around 7% in volume, but some retailers are seeing falling sales of 20%.

The illicit trade is playing an important part in the decline of these retailers’ sales and plain packaging will only add to their woes.

We all want a healthier nation and to prevent youngsters from smoking, but education both in schools and at home has to play a key role. Plain packaging and display bans are only papering over the cracks and the root of the problem has to be addressed.

How important are price-marked packs in your store? Let us know in the comments section.