We Don’t Sell Cigarettes Anymore

That’s what Rochester, NY based Wegmans Food Markets announced to their customers last January 5th. All tobacco products were removed from their shelves by February 10th. In a letter to their employees Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman, stated, “We believe there are few of us that would introduce our children to smoking.â€Â 

Wegmans Food Markets, a chain of 71 upscale markets, employing upwards of 37,000 people, is the first major grocery chain to remove tobacco products from their stores. What makes this a significant move is Wegmans is consistently listed by Supermarket News as one of the top 75 grocery chains in the United States. Fortune 100, also lists Wegmans, for the past 11 years, as one of the top 100 best companies to work for.

The move was made easier by Wegmans refusing promotional dollars from the cigarette manufactures to promote and display their products. That’s right – the tobacco makers actually pay retailers to display their products, but then so does Coke and Pepsi, along with a long list of others. The promotional dollars are often used to reduce the end cost to the consumer.

An added benefit to removing the product from grocer’s shelves is the elimination of that category of shrink. Even though most retailers long ago placed cigarettes behind counters; tobacco products continue to be a source of loss to bottom line profits.

Will this trend catch on? Target eliminated tobacco products from their stores in 1996, but their competitors failed to follow suit. In today’s climate, here in the U.S., smoking has become increasingly unpopular. Since Wegmans made their Jan. 5th announcement, I have been in contact with many grocery retailers who have stated that they are discussing the topic, but to date no other large grocery chains have announced they are following Wegmans lead.

- Curtis Baillie, Principal Consultant, - Security Consulting Strategies, LLC