Eighty-eight per cent of respondents say they are not concerned about the ban. Not one respondent thinks that it will lead to a fall in profits.
One of the reasons they are so sanguine is that they've already learnt from the impact of the ban in other parts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Another is that they have already been looking elsewhere for new and more profitable categories such as fresh and chilled, non-food and food to go, because of the lack of margin in tobacco.
Eighty-eight per cent say they are working to become less reliant on tobacco. Only 12% say they will not shift their focus from the tobacco category. “We would like to become less dependent on the tobacco category, but it may not be possible as yet,” says one cash & carry operator.
There are a number of reasons why they aren't worried about the impact on their bottom line. Some say they expect to grow tobacco sales along with other categories as more consumers stay at home rather than going to the pub. This, they hope, will also grow their alcohol sales.
One wholesaler says anecdotal reports from retailers paint a picture of increased tobacco sales in off-licences, along with higher alcohol sales.
Another cash & carry operator argues that there's not enough profit to affect. “It would be helpful if tobacco suppliers appreciated the job wholesalers do in distributing their product,” he says. “Because the shared margin is frankly pathetic.”
Wholesalers' confidence in tobacco sales can be directly traced to the experiences of their colleagues in Scotland. Although sales dipped after the ban came into force last year, they have since recovered. In fact, many independents and wholesalers claim to now be selling more tobacco.
“More smokers are buying their tobacco through c-stores than they used to, instead of buying through the on-trade,” says one Scotland-based delivered wholesaler.
Some of this growth is not linked to the ban, but to a clampdown by HM Revenue & Customs on smugglers and rogue traders selling cheaper tobacco, he admits, but adds: “We are selling 10% more tobacco than before last March. In fact, we are making more money and our margin is better.”
The questions we asked:
1) Are you concerned by the introduction of the smoking ban?
Yes - 12%
No - 88%
2) Has it had a negative impact on sales?
Yes - 16%
No - 84%
3) Will the ban lead to a fall
Yes - 0%
No - 100%
4) Are you working to become less reliant on tobacco?
Yes - 88%
No - 12%