In-store research by the Rural Shops Alliance (RSA) shows the introduction of plain tobacco packs could cost shopkeepers “tens of millions of pounds” a year, reports today’s Independent Retail News.
The findings come just as the UK government’s public consultation period on plain tobacco packaging has ended, while the courts in Australia have backed its government’s plans to introduce standardised packaging in December.
The RSA commissioned a research project, funded by British American Tobacco, to see how plain packs would affect the length of time staff would take to serve tobacco products to customers, using “professionally produced” plain cigarette packs.
Staff members at the four trial shops, two below 3,000sq ft and two larger outlets, were filmed over a two-week period to see how long it took to serve the plain packs to about 2,500 tobacco customers, compared with equivalent transactions for normal packs.
The results of the research are being quantified and a full report will eventually be sent to the Department of Health, which is expected to announce its findings on the consultation period by the end of the year or early in 2013.
“The initial findings are stark” said the RSA. “The time taken for an assistant to get the right product for the customer more than doubled, whilst the number of mistakes staff made in the process increased by a factor of four times.
“It also meant that staff spent longer with their back to customers, an undesirable security risk in some locations. The introduction of standardised packaging would have a real and significant impact on shop costs and customer service times” said the RSA. “Although it is hard to quantify this accurately, it is clear that this would cost shopkeepers tens of millions of pounds a year.”
The Australian government has been given the green light to introduce plain packaging, despite claims the move would breach trademark rights. UK campaigners against plain packaging said the judicial decision would not damage its own efforts.
Independent retailer Debbie Corris, who is national spokeswoman for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, said plain packaging would “play into the hands of tobacco smugglers”.
Source: Independent Retail News