Be prepared for the darkness


BY the time your customers pack up the last of the tinsel and make their way back to the office-hours life, just after the New Year, there will be around three months to go until small shops have to follow supermarkets into the tobacco dark market.
The various tobacco display bans in the UK (Scotland’s is different because the area allowed to be revealed when making a sale or restocking a covered gantry is much smaller than that permitted south of the border) take effect on 6 April 2015.
Tobacco certainly isn’t the single most profitable item on sale in c-stores. But tobacco companies and others argue that tobacco products are essential footfall drivers for small shops.
Adult smokers are repeat visitors, remarkably loyal to their local shop and often buy other things as well as tobacco when they visit stores, it’s argued.
And by that theory tobacco sales have a significantly positive if slightly complicated effect on store profitability.
So how should stores approach the coming display ban?
• Ensure staff are fully aware of stock and of each brand’s position on the gantry behind the screens. That should minimise any additional time taken to serve customers and limit the time taken away from potentially profitable activities like up-selling at the till.
• Ensure availability. Don’t run out of stock, especially of key brands. It’s vital not to lose the loyalty of your adult smoker customers because if you do you’re likely to lose more than just their cigarettes or RYO business.
• Be knowledgeable. Make sure your staff know of any new developments on brands, that they know the cheapest items in the various categories and are ready to answer customers’ questions. Watch your sales figures carefully and speak to company reps regularly about dark market trends.