convenience store soft drinks confectionery aisle

Retailer have reported ‘little impact’ on sales from the restrictions

HFSS location restrictions aren’t deterring shoppers like they were supposed to, according to convenience retailers.

Following the introduction of restrictions in October, which cost retailers time and money to reshuffle store layouts in preparation for, there had been little impact on sales, with some retailers even reporting an increase in sales across confectionery, snacks and other HFSS goods.

Spar retailer Julian Taylor-Green, who owns a 2,500 sq ft store in Stafford, said confectionery sales had gone up by 11.5% in the past year, while crisps and snacks rose 14.1%.

“While inflation will play a part in this, I feel this has happened because we’ve now moved HFSS products that were by the tills and on promotional bays all into one place on the confectionery aisle, which has made that shopping experience easier for the customer to access these products,” he said.

“Until you actually educate people and inform them about making right decisions, which can go back all the way to school, people will always eat what they want to eat.”

He explained he was now using end-of-aisle units for alcohol, given the category did not fall under the restrictions.

“But that is the most absurd bit to me,” he added. “This is because you’re moving away from a food-based challenge to an alcohol-based challenge, yet alcohol is just as bad for you in terms of weight gain and unhealthy living.”

Independent retailer Stephen Jempson, who owns two supermarkets and four convenience stores, said inflation was prompting more shoppers to buy multipacks of chocolate from the main aisle to make them last longer.

Another independent retailer said his new confectionery aisle, which was created to avoid restrictions around the till area, was also drawing in customers.

“We now have a separate confectionery aisle, which is adding sales because we’re actually giving more space to it,” the retailer said.

“And also, because we have a big enough store, we moved part of our queueing area two metres away from the till so it could still hold some HFSS products, so we’ve not lost many sales there either.”

With Easter approaching, Costcutter retailer Sue Nithyanandan said high demand for chocolate eggs was also making the location restrictions less effective.

“These regulations were not well thought through,” she said. “There should have been more responsibility on the manufacturers.”

She also described her time spent relaying the store as “wasteful”, having seen no sign of enforcement since the law kicked in.

The Association of Convenience Stores said it was still critical to continue applying HFSS restrictions consistently.

“Thousands of retailers have made significant changes to their stores in recent months to comply with HFSS legislation after a prolonged period of uncertainty,” said CEO James Lowman.

“It’s reassuring to see that Trading Standards are not taking a heavy-handed approach to enforcement on HFSS, but it is important that the rules continue to be understood and applied consistently, both by retailers and by the enforcement community, and we urge anyone with questions about the regulations to make use of our comprehensive guidance.”