Palmer & Harvey (P&H), which turns over more than £3bn worth of tobacco a year, has put on a brave face following the announcement of plans to introduce standardised packaging.

Jon Moxon, group finance director, vowed to help independent retail customers manage the category so they could still enjoy strong sales. Moxon said P&H was “a bit surprised” about the timing, just before a general election because it was “such a major bit of legislation impacting our independent retailers in particular.”

“It appears to have been pushed through in a bit of rush. I think clearly we are going to have to respect any decision that comes our way regarding plain packaging. We don’t know necessarily at this stage the outcome of this decision,” he said.

Moxon pointed out that retailers were already having a difficult time with increased competition on high streets and they faced the added complexity of having to go “dark” on 6 April. Extra legislation that came through further down the line would make life more challenging for the independent sector.

Moxon said it was difficult to predict at this early stage what the effect would be on tobacco sales. “When the regulations take effect it will make it a much harder category to manage and, with a company like P&H which has renowned industry leading expertise in this particular product, it becomes more important to help our customers with this legislation and they can turn to us and it will still be an important product and footfall driver for them.”