What Norway’s retailers learnt from plain tobacco packaging

Terje Larsen

Product Manager Select & Collect

October 8, 2018

A wave of tobacco sales restrictions rippling through the world and reaching Europe shows that sooner or later, the new tobacco labelling laws are coming to your country as well.

Norway proves that after introducing plain packaging, getting revenue from tobacco sales will require increased retailer effort. As we notice in Norway, retailers that are well prepared for the new restrictions tend to retain tobacco sales profits. But how to maintain tobacco sales at the same level after stricter laws come into place? Many retailers opt for using automated solutions that help them steer away from some of the most common problems.

Plain tobacco packaging pioneers around the world

Most countries tend to introduce a tobacco display ban first and more and more are now preparing for the stricter regulations ­– plain tobacco packaging. While the former ban obligates retailers to remove all tobacco displays out of sight, the latter bans the use of logos and branded graphics on packages.

The first country to introduce plain tobacco packaging in 2012 was Australia, followed by France and United Kingdom in 2017, New Zealand and Norway in 2018 and soon to be among them Ireland. Hungary, Slovenia, Sweden, Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Belgium, South Africa, Estonia, Germany and Russia are all preparing to introduce the plain tobacco packaging laws soon. * It is worth considering that each country’s retailers approach the new regulations differently, which depends on the varying layout requirements, set by the governments.

Norway’s experience

Norway was the fourth country in the World to introduce plain tobacco packaging in July 2018 and the industry was given one year to adapt to the new regulations. Many of our customers agree that the main problem with plain packaging is that it causes inconvenience for the staff as well as increases the queues. Mistakes happen frequently, since all the packages are of identical look and shape and even experienced staff struggles to pick the right product for the customer.

To have the cigarette packages organized, Norway’s tobacco companies came up with the useful catalogues of their products, where the old and the new looks of the packages were listed. Besides that, they offered seminars for the vendors introducing the new packaging, which helped the staff to get used to the new look and feel of the products. It is exemplary of Norway’s tobacco companies to be so cooperative and aid retailers in preparation for the changes to tobacco vending. The result was that many retailers, who took the time to attend the seminars, were better prepared for the new regulations and their transition to new set up in the stores was smoother.

Retailers like Coop Mega Vinderen in Oslo, which used Select & Collect solution for tobacco sales automation, emphasize that it especially helps to overcome the said issues, as all the products are stored in the machine and its software ensures that there are no mistakes or delays in dispensing the product. This is how the stocked Select & Collect Dispenser looks like with the plain tobacco packages:

Unquestionably, finding an appropriate stocking solution became another priority for Norway’s retailers. Those, who sought to avoid the inconvenience of stocking tobacco at every check-out, opted for stocking it at a single check-out. This was already complicating the sales process where the customers would have to shout across to the staff member at the other check-out to get the product. Already time consuming and troublesome, the process became even lengthier, as now the staff had to spend extra time selecting the right product. It was evident that retailers needed to look for a more effective way to keep their customers’ needs met.

Solutions that work

Many retailers across the country opted for using Select & Collect Solution when Norway adopted the tobacco display ban in 2010. And as the tobacco labelling ban was announced in 2018, StrongPoint offered the new generation Select & Collect, which doesn’t only allow stores to hide away the packages from view, but also to sell and replenish identical items easier. It is also proven that Select & Collect shortens the time of tobacco sales transaction by 20-60 seconds, which is a very significant time-saver for the customers and staff.

“With the products safely stored in Select & Collect Dispenser, we have full control over the sale of cigarettes, snus and prescription-free medicines. We don’t have to spend unnecessary time looking for the right products in the cashier-area, and with the new legislation on tobacco, we see an even greater need for the solution.” Says Nida Tharaldsen at Coop Mega Vinderen, Oslo.

From the retailers’ experience, what is excellent about Select & Collect is that the tobacco products are all stocked in one convenient place and it only takes a second to hand the item to the customer. This simple process ensures that even with the plain packaging, you can avoid losing a valuable shopping basket over a failure to conveniently sell the desired tobacco product.

All in all, Norway has successfully adapted to the new laws by using automated solutions, which have certain benefits:

Faster transaction for the customer

Faster and easier re-stocking of the tobacco products for the retailer

Keeping all tobacco products out of sight

Showing the tobacco price list according to each country’s requirements

The retailer benefits even more from other Select & Collect advantages, for example, eliminating shrinkage, the option to sell other products which are prone to theft in the same dispenser and an opportunity to sell tobacco and other Select & Collect items through self-checkout.

As Norway’s example proves, for every problem, there is a solution. It is indeed possible to retain tobacco profits at the same level with the help of automated solutions.