Is tobacco a driver of footfall among small retailers? A geographical analysis of tobacco purchasing using electronic point of sale data

Tob Control. 2022 Jul 18:tobaccocontrol-2021-057089. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-057089. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Opponents of policies designed to reduce tobacco retail availability argue that tobacco products are a vital driver of 'footfall' in small retailers. This study considers the changing contribution of tobacco to footfall and revenue among convenience stores across Britain, compares tobacco to other 'footfall driver' products and assesses whether tobacco's importance varies by neighbourhood deprivation and urban/rural status.

Methods: We conducted an analysis of electronic point of sale systems data from 1253 convenience stores in Britain in 4 weeks in 2016 and 2019. We calculated the number and value of purchased basket types (Tobacco Only, Non-Tobacco, Mixed) in each year and by neighbourhood characteristics.

Results: The mean numbers of baskets per store containing tobacco fell by 47% during 2016-2019, a greater decline than any other footfall driver product. The sales value of tobacco products rose sharply over this time period due to increasing unit price. However, the proportion of store turnover accounted for by tobacco transactions declined. There were marked falls in the turnover from non-tobacco products in Mixed tobacco baskets. The proportion of baskets containing tobacco and the value of turnover from these baskets was greater in more deprived and urban areas but these places also experienced larger reductions over time, narrowing differences between areas.

Conclusion: Tobacco's importance as a driver of footfall and related turnover among convenience retailers has reduced significantly in Britain in recent years, particularly in deprived and urban areas, undermining industry claims that tobacco is essential to the viability of these businesses.

Keywords: economics; end game; environment; socioeconomic status; tobacco industry.