Now we know why the country’s in such a mess, MPs have been so busy fiddling their expenses they don’t have their minds on the real game. For example when those hard-working chaps at the Association of Convenience Stores went to visit them recently about the dubiousness of the proposed tobacco display ban, they were probably more focused on whether their expenses had been signed - particularly the silver spoon cleaning and having the hedge trimmed into the shape of a peacock - and whether this cost could be fobbed off onto the taxpayer.
The amendment to remove the ban on the tobacco display was defeated in the House of Lords last month, despite the efforts of the ACS and others. ACS chief executive James Lowman was disappointed that the display ban is being pushed through in the face of weak evidence that it will make a difference to youth smoking. "It is disappointing that the cost of the ban has been so inaccurately and confusingly communicated to MPs over recent months," he said. "The briefings from Government have downplayed the likely costs of the measure and this has portrayed an inaccurate picture of the cost and disruption that retailers will face to implement this law... It is important that in the next phase of debate there is greater clarity about the costs." Let’s hope so.
But if it does all goes wrong for the tobacco category there is some positive indication in the latest report from the Institute of Grocery Distribution (see page 10) that another category is emerging that could soften the blow of any decline in revenue. Food-to-go is emerging as a saving grace for the forecourt sector - the fastest-growing category in forecourt shops in fact - and becoming increasingly important to retailers’ sales.
Elsewhere two new fuel brands are coming onto the market - it’ll be interesting to see how they fare, but good to have a few more options. One last thing: get your Forecourt Trader of the Year entries in now!