On April 6 last year the Government imposed the tobacco display ban. We saw this as an opportunity to take a fresh look at how our counter works. One of the big considerations was whether or not we should install a new gantry with sliding doors, or make use of the wall behind the counter in a different way.

Eventually we came to the decision to buy and install an overhead unit to free up the wall for other products. I have to say we hadn’t really nailed down how we would successfully use this bigger space by the time we opened last July. On launch day the space was full but poorly defined as it consisted of spirits, e-cigarettes and weigh-out sweets. It just lacked definition.

12 months on I can report that the overhead tobacco unit is working incredibly well. It has certainly been a great investment and has not reduced customer awareness of the fact that we sell cigarettes.

The key growth category has been spirits, which after a slow start has developed a lot. I know from other retailers like the Cheema’s that spirits is a category which has potential for significantly higher sales if you stock a broad range. Our range used to be fairly conservative; we were stocking big brands like Bells, Gordon’s and Smirnoff as well as our wholesaler’s own label whiskey, gin, vodka and other spirits. We also stocked the half and quarter bottles.

Today our spirits range has grown significantly in every direction. We now stock lines from the cheap brands up to lines like Grey Goose vodka which can cost over £35. We have now given an additional bay to the category, sharpened the merchandising standards, added more fractional sizes and price promoted at every opportunity. Sales have risen well and while I don’t think we will grow our range to the size of the Cheema’s, I do see that we will continue to develop this part of our business.

We have recently brought in a new vaping supplier who has helped us improve our display and the product range we offer. I will report how this develops in another article soon.

The counter area is a very important part of any retail store, and after a bit of a bumpy start following the redevelopment, I am confident that we are seeing benefits from the new counter and overhead gantry.