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Retail Newsagent asked two leading suppliers for their perspectives on the effects of the display ban and for advice on operating in the dark market
Jeremy Blackburn, JTI, head of communications
Has JTI noticed any major changes since the display ban?
We’ve learnt from retailers and sales reps that the display ban has had more of an impact on the operational side than actual tobacco sales. The continued growth of RYO and value products is consistent with market trends that were there before April.
What can retailers do to protect sales in the dark market?
Checking availability first thing in the morning has now become a top priority for many retailers, whereas before those checks were on things like sandwiches and milk. It’s vital because if a customer queues up for five minutes, only to find out you’re out of stock of their cigarette brand, they will soon get fed up.
How have you supported retailers since the ban?
Our reps have taken more of a business advisory role, offering guidance on best practice and how to introduce products in a dark market. In addition, our goal when creating the JTI Advance website was to provide a 24/7 sales rep that offered the same level of insight and advice.
Tony Lyles, sales rep, Ritmeester
What effect has the display ban had?
I’ve seen all sorts of gantry solutions and ways shops have adapted to the ban. Cigars can easily drop off the radar, so I’ve found that how cigar sales are maintained is often down to the efforts of the retailer.
What have been the main challenges for the cigar market?
January and February before the ban were really tough for cigar sales, as half the stores had already fitted doors and the other half hadn’t, so trade was unequally distributed to those with open gantries. After April, however, all stores were the same and sales went back up.
What advice do you have for retailers?
Embrace product development and make sure you know about it. We introduced pricemarked packs 18 months ago and now the demand for them is absolutely huge. Whether asking about prices or your range, customer queries are an opportunity to communicate your availability and secure repeat custom.