The dossier is growing, and the Smoke Them Out campaign is gathering momentum.
In the four weeks since we first asked “What’s going on?”, Retail Express has been inundated with calls. We reported on some last week.
The importance of the Smoke Them Out campaign was put in stark perspective this week when Retail Express received a call from a retailer in the north of England.
The retailer was in tears because her very livelihood, the business that she has spent 30 years building up, is close to being ruined because of stores in her area dealing in illicit tobacco.
“You have to help me,” she said. “It’s so hard now – we can’t open up anywhere else. It isn’t fair that this can happen”.
The day after her call, news broke that a store called The Paper Shop in Wells, Somerset, was closing for the very same reason.
Owner Christina Borastero said that she is closing the business down and has cited illegal tobacco sales around the premises as one of the main factors in its closure.
Borastero said: “About once a month, we see a huge dip in our sales – it lasts about a week, sometimes two, and then sales start to pick up again – whenever people can’t get them elsewhere, they come back to us.
“But when I’m selling cigarettes for nearly £8 a packet, legally, and someone else is selling them for £5 a pack – well, what would you do?”
We are gathering information from all of the calls that we’re receiving, and will be taking it to the highest possible level. At the last count more than 25 retailers, from all four corners of the United Kingdom, had called us. The dossier is growing.
We’ve heard about retailers manufacturing their own labels; a retailer in the midlands that gets a delivery from an articulated truck that he then unloads into smaller vans to wholesale out around the area. And from one retailer, next to a store that opened only one month ago, but is brazenly selling outers of 200 cigarettes for £25.
With your help, we’re putting together the tools to Smoke Them Out.
Please keep calling us on 0207 689 3376. All calls will be be treated in the strictest confidence and your details will remain anonymous. The information you provide is absolutely vital.