April 6, 2020
The menthol ban hasn’t been on our list of priorities since the COVID-19 outbreak, but we’re trying to do everything we can to be ready. Tobacco is an important category for us and 40% of our sales is either menthol or crushball, so the ban is going to have a massive effect.
Continuing to communicate
We’re still making sure that we are speaking to customers when they buy menthol products but most of our time has been spent getting essential items on the shelves and dealing with restrictions. I have to say I’ve had a moral issue with some customers who have been coming in for just a packet of cigarettes or scratch cards because I don’t think that’s the essential shop visits we’ve been asked to make.
Keeping products on shelf
We’re still maintaining our range as best we can with menthol products. I know from conversations that we’ve had that some retailers are having real problems with demand, after supermarkets had massive availability issues just before the lock down was announced.
Coronavirus sales boost
Our vape sales have been going up but only in line with the rest of the business. When they announced the lock down our sales shot up by about 60% because people are shopping more locally. That’s settled to more like 50% now but it still has a been a huge burden on the business.
The menthol ban is coming at exactly the wrong time with everything that’s going on but if the government were thinking of suspending it then, to be honest, they’re thinking about the wrong things. I think the thing is that nobody can understand why the menthol ban is happening. The government will still see measures like these as a vote winner so I have no doubt it will happen.
Alternatives are sitting ready
We’re all stocked up with our flavour cards and menthol filters. They’re not selling as of yet but they are there in place for when the ban comes in. Until then I can’t see there being much interest in these products. People are still smoking the same products as ever with any changes caused by a little bit of stockpiling from customers because of the lock down.
Sam Coldbeck owns and runs Premier Wharfedale, Hull with her husband Mark