Third of London shopkeepers would ditch cigarettes to become ‘smoke-free’ retailers, report finds


A third (34%) of all convenience store owners in London would stop the sale of cigarettes in favour of smoke-free products to help adult smokers switch, new analysis by KAM and Lake Research, commissioned by Philip Morris Limited (PML), has found.

The Big Switch Report was commissioned to discover whether convenience retailers in England were helping smokers switch away from cigarettes by improving access to, and awareness of, smoke-free products, like e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products.

The research of convenience store owners in London specifically, also revealed that:
43% of retailers in London believe retailers could be more involved in helping adults who would otherwise continue smoking, to switch to smoke-free alternatives
Two-thirds (68%) of retailers in London want better relationships with adult smoking customers to help them switch to alternative products
60% of retailers in London would collaborate with pharmacies, GP surgeries and stop smoking services to support smokers further
41% of retailers in London think smokers would appreciate more support from local retailers to switch to alternative products
Under half (45%) of retailers in London think it ‘Likely’ that their community will be smoke-free by the year 2030

The research involving 1,400+ convenience store owners and over 1,000 former adult smokers, reveals a growing movement of retailers feeling motivated into helping customers abandon cigarettes by shifting their businesses towards smoke-free products, and sheds new light on the important – and largely unseen role – convenience retailers are playing to help communities go smoke-free.

However, the findings also revealed several challenges, such as insufficient knowledge in the smoke-free category and concerns for building a sustainable business without cigarettes, which prevented retailers from helping smokers switch.

Overall, the Big Switch offers a positive outlook as to how retailers in England could be accelerating the journey towards a smoke-free future, by helping smokers abandon cigarettes for good.

Thuy Nguyen of Soho Vape in London, said: “The reason I came into this business was because I had a passion to get people off cigarettes.

“Smoke-free products are not risk-free, but they are a far better option for smokers if they’re unable to quit tobacco and nicotine products completely.”

Key findings from the report include:
Almost half (47%) of store owners believe they could be more involved in helping adult smokers switch to smoke-free alternatives
Over half (52%) of store owners say their adult customers use smoke-free products to move away from cigarettes
59% of store owners consider the smoke-free category ‘the future of sales’
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of former smokers now using smoke-free alternatives feel a convenience store is an appropriate place for smokers to be advised about smoke-free products

Christian Woolfenden, Managing Director at PML, said: “The Big Switch Report reveals how switching adult smokers from cigarettes to smoke-free products has become a new pillar of community-focused retailing. Rather than retaining customers as cigarette smokers, convenience retailers are building stronger connections over the countertop to improve awareness of, and access to, alternative products like e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products.

“As the only tobacco company purposefully working to phase out cigarettes completely, we will continue to support retailers, so they’re able to communicate the benefits of smoke-free alternatives to their adult customers who are unable to quit tobacco and nicotine products completely.”

James Lowman, Chief Executive at the Association of Convenience Retailers (ACS), the voice of over 33,500 local shops nationwide, added: “Convenience store retailers are embedded in their communities, with a reach unlike any other sector in the UK grocery market.

“This community grounding of convenience stores enables the people running and working in stores to be acutely in tune with the needs of their customers, but retailers also need to look at data from wider research to keep abreast of trends.

“The e-cigarette and smoke-free category is changing fast, so it’s important to understand consumer attitudes and benchmark with your own experiences and sales information.”