By Aimee Chanthadavong

The Alliance of Australian Retailers has recently launched a national campaign against the federal government’s proposal to mandate plain packaging for cigarettes.

Made up of the Service Station Association, Australian Newsagents' Federation and National Independent Retailers Association, the Alliance of Australian Retailers has already released several television and radio commercials and newspaper advertisements in protest, which can be viewed here.

Craig Glasby, owner of Liberty petrol station at Empire Bay, NSW and spokesperson for the Alliance of Australian Retailers told Retailbiz that introducing plain packaging will slow down service in small retail stores, such as a newsagency or convenience store.

“Before, you turn, you grab and you scan and it use to go quite smoothly, but now we have to know which cupboard has which cigarettes before we can grab. With plain packaging you have to read the packet because there are not distinguishable tickets between the different branded cigarettes and so that slows down the process of serving a customer.”

Glasby explained that effectively it will result in the ‘snowball effect’.

“Slowdown of service will force not only the person buying the cigarette to wait but people behind that person, who may not even be buying cigarettes, to wait to pay for their milk, bread and newspaper, as well as anyone else at the back of the line to wait,” he said.

“Consumers are conditioned to wait in supermarkets but in convenience stores they’re conditioned to receive convenient service.

“But sales drop in cigarettes is not the issue; it’s the customers we’re losing who are buying their bread, milk and newspaper from it us. But they won’t return because the prices aren’t as competitive and the service is too slow.”

The challenge has become far more difficult for smaller retailers as they lose their customers to supermarket chains such as Coles, which are now importing cheaper brand cigarettes from Germany to attract customers, Glasby said.

“If you talk to any small retailer, they’ll say other retailers are competition but the big chains are our enemy. We can’t provide imported cigarettes or offer 4 cents a litre petrol dockets.”

Glasby said despite the government’s good intentions to reduce the amount of smokers in the country, plain cigarette packaging is not the solution.