April 7, 2020
It’s been a busy few weeks but what with our customer testing and continued staff training I think my business is going to be ready when the menthol ban finally comes on 20 May.
A reminder with every purchase
What we’re doing is reminding customers who come into buy menthol of the options which are available. If they smoke menthol rolling tobacco then we tell them about the crushball filters and for the customers who buy crushball or menthol cigarettes we’re talking about the flavour cards that can make traditional cigarettes menthol flavoured.
Testing out products first-hand
I kept in touch with a couple of customers who bought the flavour cards when they first came out. What they’ve told me is that it actually takes longer than an hour to turn the flavour into a menthol cigarette. It’s not the same, obviously, but overall they were happy with it as an option and you do get a menthol product from it.
A pre-ban last hurrah for menthol?
What we’ve actually seen in the past few weeks is that people have been panic buying cigarettes just like they’ve been panic buying food. And while supermarkets have been limiting customers to three products, newsagents and local shops are happy to sell them five or even an outer if they can.
Reps have risen to the challenge
Despite the issues with not having in-store visits, our reps have actually been very good. We’ve been getting regular advice and promotion news from JTI via WhatsApp, for example. We’ve also been getting phone calls from Imperial and, overall, I’ve been really impressed by how the industry is supporting us at a difficult time.
Don’t leave older outers unsold
Our JTI rep, for example, had been reminding us to bring forward older products. Due to track and trace, suppliers will only be able to replace stock from more recent dates so it is an important message to pass on. For stores with low stockholding who buy their products day by day this won’t present a huge problem because they often sell out before replenishing stock. For businesses with more money, which buy products in on a weekly basis, this could be a real issue.
The ban is coming at the worst possible time
The menthol ban is coming at a really bad time. People are stuck at home and, because they are frustrated, they are going to smoke more. Menthol cigarettes are about 35% to 40% of my cigarettes sales. In the next few weeks all of these products will disappear, so it’s a challenge. I’ve been making sure my staff are ready for it, with training on all the other options available.
Muntazir Dipoti owns and runs Todmorden News in Todmorden, Calderdale (West Yorkshire)