Plain packs hit c-store shelves

PLAIN packs, the new style of cigarettes boxes that follow standardised packaging rules set by UK authorities, and other regulations required by the European Union directive known as EUTPD2, have begun making their way onto c-store shelves.

The look of things to come. From 20 May 2017 all cigarettes will have to be sold in the style of packs now beginning to make their way into cash & carry and convenience stores’ stock.

Are you now selling plain packs? What are your customers saying? Call John McNee on 0141 567 6032

The new packs began to appear less than three months after the transition period began and nine months ahead of the date when retailers will only be allowed to sell the new style. From 20 May 2017 retailers will no longer be able to sell cigarettes in packs of less than 20 or RYO tobacco in packs of less than 30g. Packs will be a uniform colour, and will carry large health warnings, very limited brand identification, and no price marking.

And, while tobacco companies have suggested that c-store retailers should avoid raising prices above RRP when price-marked packs come off the market, one retailer has said to Scottish Grocer that he has been told to expect substantial manufacturers’ increases on remaining stocks of 10-packs.

Aneeb Tariq, at Day-Today Alberta Place in East Kilbride has Benson and Hedges Superking Blue and Sky Blue, but said he had also seen Pall Mall Superkings in plain packs at the cash & carry. “I’ve sold one of each and the customers are just like ‘what the hell is that?’,” he said. “It’s been a really bad response.

“One lady who asked for B&H Superking Blue, we explained to her it was in new packaging and also that it’s 20 cigarettes now. It used to be 18 in a pack, so it’s more expensive than our customers are used to. Once we’d explained, she accepted it and took it, but she wasn’t too happy.

10-packs, as well as all other sizes of cigarettes with fewer than 20 sticks will not be allowed to be sold from 20 May 2017. PMPs in tobacco will also be a thing of the past.

“To be honest, I’m slightly worried, because I can foresee a major drop in cigarette sales. Our customers are used to PMPs, they know how much they cost and they come in with the exact change, so this is going to have a big impact.

“We’re still selling plenty of 10-packs, but our rep’s been in touch to say the prices are being put up by about 30p. I think they’ve decided to make a bit extra while they still can.”

At Family Shopper in Airbles Street, Motherwell, the only plain packs to have come in are for Benson and Hedges Superking Blue. “We’ve sold a couple,” a staff member said. “The only person I’ve sold to was a regular customer. He knew everything was changing and didn’t have any issue, but I can imagine someone else might.”

Meanwhile, at Londis Solo Convenience Store in Baillieston owner Natalie Lightfoot said: “We’ve got B&H Superking Blue and Sky Blue. I used to sell two outers of Superking Blue every couple of days. But after a week, the full outer of plain packs is still there. People are just switching brand to Players or something else that’s cheaper.

“I haven’t heard any reactions to the packaging itself from customers. The only real problem we’ve had is that staff keep mixing them up. They can’t tell them apart. I think it’s going to be a nightmare.”