Wal-Mart May Impact Retailers' Stance on Tobacco: Study

The number of supermarkets that opt to discontinue the sale of tobacco products may be influenced by whether or not Wal-Mart Stores discontinues their sale, according to a study by Leo J. Shapiro & Associates. The study, based on a national sample of 450 phone calls and provided to SN exclusively last week, found that 43% of all respondents said they are opposed to food stores selling

CHICAGO — The number of supermarkets that opt to discontinue the sale of tobacco products may be influenced by whether or not Wal-Mart Stores discontinues their sale, according to a study by Leo J. Shapiro & Associates here.

The study, based on a national sample of 450 phone calls and provided to SN exclusively last week, found that 43% of all respondents said they are opposed to food stores selling tobacco products — more than double the 17% who indicated they favor their sale — while 40% said it made no difference.

Among Wal-Mart shoppers specifically, the results were nearly identical, with 44% saying they are opposed to the sale of tobacco at food stores, 17% in favor and 39% to whom it made no difference.

Asked whether they would be more or less likely to shop at a food store that sold tobacco, only 9% of all respondents said they would be less likely, compared with 30% who said they would be more likely and 61% who said it made no difference.

Only 7% of Wal-Mart customers said they would be less likely to shop there if the company stopped selling tobacco, compared with 32% who indicated they would be more likely to shop there and 61% who said it made no difference.

“Continuation by Wal-Mart of tobacco product sales may discourage some food and drug chains from [making a change] for fear of losing trips to Wal-Mart,” the study said. “As a result, chains that discontinue tobacco will enjoy an advantage by the distinctiveness of their commitment to health and healthy living so long as Wal-Mart continues the sale of tobacco products.”

Over the last few months, several supermarket operators have stopped selling tobacco, including Wegmans, Rochester, N.Y.; Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton, Ohio; Andronico's, Albany, Calif.; DeCicco's Markets, Pelham, N.Y.; and, just last week, six ShopRite stores in New Jersey.

Given the results, the study said, “Clearly, abandoning tobacco sales is becoming a growth strategy. This makes it likely tobacco sales will be discontinued by more food and drug chains, and those in the forefront of this trend stand to reap the most publicity and greatest benefits.”

The survey also indicated that one in six consumers thinks tobacco should be sold on a prescription basis. “If this happens, many retailers will be back squarely in the tobacco business without compromising their commitment to healthcare and healthy living,” the study said.