Great insight can come from anywhere

In these testing times, it is a joy to hear from somebody who is upbeat about business prospects. A relatively junior member of our independent sector sales team had taken it upon himself to make sure that the marketing department was properly briefed on what he believes will be a key change to consumer behaviour next year.

He had scanned a relevant trade press article and also written some short but highly relevant notes on the same topic. Credit to him for taking the initiative with my team and for his follow-up efforts in seeking to persuade us to spend more money with his customers and channel next year.

I was impressed by his proactivity and the particular piece of intelligence that he has taken the trouble to champion is certainly not something that my team or our agencies have thus far considered as part of our brand planning. Knowing what I now know, I am rather embarrassed by that.

The insight is that independent retailers could be in line for a £1bn sales bonanza next year. The reason is that supermarket stores over 3,000sq ft will no longer be able to display tobacco from April 2012, but that smaller stores will be exempt from the ban until 2015. Bigger stores can, of course, still sell tobacco but shoppers will have to send smoke signals to place their order.

The predication therefore is that 2012 could be the biggest year for the independent sector since the National Lottery launched in 1994. For those in doubt, the multiples currently sell £5bn worth of tobacco a year, a similar amount to the independent trade. Some industry experts are predicting a tobacco buying switch as high as 10% from multiples to independents, driving huge incremental footfall of 2 million consumers a week to independents.

Of the 2012 brand plans I have reviewed so far, there have been plenty of mentions of the ongoing economic gloom, the impact of the Olympics, the national obsession with smartphones and social media. All are relevant, but perhaps a packet of fags may yet make the biggest difference of all.

On behalf of the marketing department, may I thank my young colleague in the sales team for this hugely helpful information. It is a great deal more useful than the macro abstract waffle I routinely receive in my mail box from the so-called insight experts.

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