Black market tobacco

Wholesalers are often the first to know if there is a rise in illicit trade in their area, says FWD chief executive James Bielby

Imperial Tobacco is launching a new wholesale-focused phase of its anti-illicit trade campaign in partnership with the FWD.

The parties have developed a new poster that will appear in cash & carry depots across the UK and in the trade press.

The poster depicts a depot empty of any tobacco-buying retailers alongside the message: ‘Have you noticed anything’s missing?’ It was inspired after evidence from Imperial’s wholesaler partners suggested sudden drops in tobacco sales in depot might indicate a spike in illegal sales in a locality.

“Wholesalers can be a valuable barometer in terms of detecting increased illicit trade and identifying whether organised criminals may potentially be targeting specific regions or communities. For instance, by using information about a drop in cash & carry sales when established retailers either markedly reduce or actually stop purchasing their tobacco products through this legitimate supply chain, tobacco manufacturers like Imperial can commence investigations,” said Imperial Tobacco anti-illicit trade manager Peter Nelson.

“We can draw on positive examples where wholesalers have reported increased sales performance following sustained enforcement action in an area. Parfetts, for instance, reported substantial improvements in Golden Virginia sales in the Manchester region following sustained enforcement activity, after originally noticing and reporting a sharp decline in said product.

“Any reports of suspicious activity provided by wholesalers and independent retailers to Imperial Tobacco’s dedicated AIT team are handled with the utmost sensitivity and passed on to the appropriate authorities.”

FWD chief executive James Bielby added: “Wholesalers are often the first to know if there is a rise in illicit trade in their area, because their own sales drop as their retail customers are selling less due to the availability of illegal product. Retailers who visit cash & carries often pass on information about illegal sources near their stores. The sooner criminal activity is detected and reported the sooner it can be stopped, and this campaign aims to remind wholesalers and retailers that any information passed on to the authorities, including unexpected drops in sales, supports the legitimate, responsible and duty-paying supply chain.”