INDEPENDENT NEWS

Ban Will Hurt Small Businesses Most

Published: Sun 2 Dec 2007 03:03 PM
Ban Will Hurt Small Businesses Most
More than 50 retailers nationwide have joined together in a coalition to fight Government proposals to ban tobacco displays from retail outlets.
Stay Displays Coalition member Murray Gibson, owner of Murray's Barber Shop in Timaru, said today that the Government proposals released last week were an attack on small, family-owned businesses in New Zealand. Business viability will be hugely affected and this will have a negative impact on local communities.
"Banning tobacco displays will have the greatest impact on small, family-owned businesses - like mine, like the local corner dairy, like the small convenience store. The proposals could end up costing us thousands of dollars in reconfiguring our shops and a display ban will create huge difficulties for us," he said.
If tobacco has to be hidden, it could mean retailers lifting shutters sometimes over a hundred times a day or continually bending over to fetch tobacco from under the counter.
Mr Gibson has been operating his Timaru business for more than 30 years. His grandfather started it last century. "Family-owned small businesses are the focal point of local communities."
He said the coalition is asking retailers and individuals in New Zealand to show their support by adding their name to the Stay Displays website (www.staydisplays.co.nz) and wants retailers to download and print a petition from the website to place on their shop counters for the Kiwis to show their disapproval for these proposals.
"How much more of this nanny state do Kiwis have to put up with?" says Richard Green, a tobacconist from Palmerston North. "People come into my shop because they want to buy tobacco. For me to have my shop and shelves covered up is taking protection for the public a bridge too far."
Mr Green said that the Government proposals would affect supermarkets or large retailers less because many have already made separate tobacco areas. "But these proposals will have a huge impact on small businesses, especially tobacconists and even dairies, many of which make up over 50 percent of their income from tobacco."
He added that banning displays will take away retailers' ability to inform customers about what brands they have available and will drive customers towards bigger outlets perceived to have a wider range of products, even when that is not the case.
The Government receives more than $1.5 billion a year in excise from tobacco. "If banning displays is as successful as the Ministry hopes and sees huge cuts in sales, we will all be looking at tax increases, not tax cuts, Mr Green said.
Dipak Kalidas, owner of the Burwood Foodmarket in Christchurch, has been in business for 10 years after spending a career as a television cameraman. He says the issue is not about smoking or supporting smoking.
"This issue is not about smoking - it is about our rights as retailers to maintain autonomy over our own businesses and sell a product that remains legal. If the Government doesn't want us to sell tobacco, then they should ban it completely. But to continue tinkering with the law just adds to concerns, cost and more confusion for small businesses," Mr Kalidas said.
"We thought this Government favours small businesses. But this will hurt small-business owners more than any other sector of our community."
Mr Kalidas said he had concerns that the Government was only listening to the anti-tobacco lobbyists who receive funding from the Ministry of Health. "We don't have as much money as the anti-tobacco brigades. We rely on people who volunteer their time and are willing to put their name out there. It's harder for us to get our message across. But with help from retailers and other concerned individuals, we can bring our concerns to Parliament just as well as the high-paid lobbyists in Wellington."
The Stay Displays Coalition urges retailers to convey concerns to local Members of Parliament, and show support by adding their name to the website, www.staydisplays.co.nz.
For a list of coalition members and supporting retailers go to www.staydisplays.co.nz.
ENDS

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