p1020043The Smokythek tobacco dispensing system from Clemthek UK Ltd offers far-sighted tobacco retailers a solution to the now increasingly likely UK-wide ban on tobacco counter displays.

With a number of other EU countries having already banned tobacco products from open display in retail outlets, here in the British Isles the Republic of Ireland was the first nation to put cigarettes out of sight in stores in July 2009, with Scotland’s turn next.  Following a vote in the Scottish parliament at the end of January, displays of cigarettes in Scottish shops are due to be banned from next year in large retailers: smaller shops have until 2013. The Scottish Grocers’ Federation has protested, saying it is still unclear from the draft regulations and the bill exactly how retailers should store tobacco in order to comply with the display ban.

The first such system of its kind to be offered in the UK and currently utilised in other European countries with great success, Smokythek dispenses tobacco products from an enclosed unit installed beneath the current serving area. Smokythek is available in two versions, an under checkout unit for supermarkets and an under counter system for convenience stores. Both utilise dead space, with no impact on the impulse sales area. Sarah Kimbell, Marketing Manager at Clemthek, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – Sarah, in Britain we’re used to seeing tobacco gantries in shops and cigarette machines in pubs and bars, but can you explain the concept of the Smokythek system?

Smokythek was originally designed as a secure system for the storage and dispensing of tobacco and other high value products at risk of theft. However it soon became apparent that the system was an ideal solution to meet proposed legislation for a “dark market”. So after some development and tweaking we now have an under counter/checkout ready made solution for an impending dark market. The benefits are threefold – not only do you get a highly secure system which meets new legislation, but the system utilises dead space beneath the current counter or checkout area.

GT – How far have you got introducing Smokythek in the UK so far? How have the trade received them?

We have run marketing campaigns in publications such as the Grocer, The Scottish Grocer and Neighbourhood Retailer. We have also run a successful in-store trial with one of the larger symbol groups. The system has been very well received from the trade – Smokythek is the only system available in the market today that meets the legislation and can fitted retrospectively. Our marketing campaign will obviously build in momentum once final legislation has been made clear in the UK.

GT – Which other countries in Europe currently use Smokythek systems? Which specific European supermarkets, c-stores and other outlets use them?

Clemthek are the UK distributor for Smokythek, which is available across the rest of the EU and has been installed in great numbers, especially in Germany.

GT – When was Clemthek UK set up, and who established it? How big is Clemthek UK now? Who owns it?

Clemthek is a subsidiary company of Clements Retail Ltd, a family owned business established for over 15 years. We employ over 60 people in a facility of 32,000 sq feet. We also have our own team of skilled technicians who are in the field 24/7.

GT – Where are the Smokythek systems made? What other equipment do you manufacture besides Smokythek?

Clemthek are the UK distributors for the Smokythek machines, which are manufactured in Germany.  We also make Shoprobotic, a highly innovative automated retail system, which dispenses a multitude of products including fragile items. Go to our website www.clemthek.com for more details.

GT – Have you exhibited the Smokythek Systems at the any trade shows here yet? What was the response?

pict0106aYes, we exhibited twice in 2009, at The In Store show and CRS. The response was very enthusiastic: trade visitors seemed hugely relieved to know such a product is readily available in the UK.

GT – What different Smokythek systems are there? How do they work? What are the dimensions of the touch keypad and the dispenser/stock holding unit?

Smokythek is available as two different offerings, one for placing under the counter, and the other for placing under checkout systems. They range from a 42 to a 90-column system. Dimensions for each system can be found on our website.

The system is simple to use: the staff member or consumer selects the product required by pressing the corresponding brand or brand description on the selection panel: the product is automatically delivered up a conveyor chute from the storage unit beneath the counter onto the counter or check-out belt: the product is then charged by the sales assistant through the normal EPOS/till process.

GT – How much stock is there in the stock holding part of the dispenser? How do you manage stocks for the dispensers?

Stock capacity varies depending on the size of the unit installed – the smallest unit holds over 500 packs, the largest over 1,000. Ideally the unit should be replenished once a day: the unit will be programmed prior to installation, to reflect the stores’ rates of sale by brand. Detailed sales printouts are available at any time and should a brand go out of stock, the unit will even inform you!

GT – Why choose Smokythek rather than another tobacco retail dispensing system?

I’m not aware of any other retail dispensing solution readily available, which can be fitted retrospectively and offers all the high tech benefits of Smokythek!

GT – I presume with Smokythek being successful in other European countries, you have good relationships with the tobacco companies and wholesalers in Continental Europe. Have you talked to the UK tobacco companies and wholesalers about the Smokythek system? Do they endorse it?

smokythek-checkout-modelYes, the tobacco manufacturers are very aware of Smokythek and we have received some favourable comments, especially on the professionalism and security of the Smokythek system.

GT – Where in a supermarket or a convenience store should you install the Smokythek system? Smokythek doesn’t go into the space left by the gantry – what do you recommend retailers do with that ‘dead’ area?

As explained earlier, the system is available in two different variants – it can be placed beneath a counter or a checkout system and in most cases can be fitted retrospectively, so the purchase of a new counter or checkout will not be required. Space behind the counter, as any retailer will tell you, is premium space, so I have no doubt that the area left by the old gantry will be snapped up for other high value, high risk – and often high margin – product offerings such as medication, cosmetics and alcohol.

GT – The tobacco companies have worked long and hard developing gantry product layouts for different stores, based on national and regional top selling tobacco lines and top sellers in those stores, to produce maximum sales and profits. How easily can retailers replicate their previous tobacco gantries’ product layouts in your keypads?

It is possible to replicate the gantry layout onto the keypad; more importantly it is possible to configure the Smokythek based on rates of sale, so out of stocks are kept to a minimum and sales and profit levels are maintained.

GT – How flexible are the allocations of columns on the Smokythek keypad for different products in each store? Can you reconfigure the allocations remotely, from a retailer’s head office? Can you include ‘managers’ choice’ selections and promotions?

dsc02648Both the keypad and the stocking columns are flexible and easily configured: the columns dispense 10s, 20s and hand rolling tobacco. The keypad to column configuration can be changed remotely by the sending of a file by email so a company can change their product range across multiple stores simultaneously.

GT – How secure is the Smokythek dispensing system? Can it be broken into? Is it alarmed or remotely monitored? Does it have an ink spray function, to deter thieves?

The system is incredibly secure and virtually impossible to break into, and for this reason other costly security solutions such as alarms and inkjet sprays are completely unnecessary.

GT – Do store staff need pin numbers to access the Smokythek system? If the arrangement in that store is for the consumer to operate the keypad, how does the store assistant control the sale?

Smokythek is available with pin access, which can be drilled down by shift. The product is always dispensed to, or in full view of, the sales assistant, and the sales assistant can block any sale to complete ID verification.

GT – With traditional tobacco gantries you can simply return the pack to the shelf if the customer changes their mind. What happens with the Smokythek unit in that instance?

The pack would remain in a location beneath the counter until the key holder opened the Smokythek for replenishment or returns.

GT – Are Smokythek systems fully compatible with stores’ point of sale systems?

smokythek-007Yes, Smokythek can be fully integrated with point of sale/EPOS systems.

GT – How do you supply Smokythek Dispensers – hire/lease or outright sale? What do they cost per system?

Smokythek starts at around £3,400 for outright purchase, although leasing will be considered for multiple systems.

GT – Can you use Smokytech to dispense other high value items besides tobacco? If so, what products are appropriate?

Smokythek is ideal for dispensing other high value, high-risk items with similar packaging weight and dimensions such as batteries, medication, razor blades and cosmetics.

GT – What is involved in the process of providing a Smokythek system for individual stores, or a group of stores? How long from first conversation to the system being installed?

The process would start with a site survey and from order to installation will take two to three weeks. A multiple order would obviously take slightly longer. We would generally install out of business hours to limit any disruption to the store and its consumers.

GT – How long does it take to install Smokythek in a supermarket checkout? How long in a convenience store?

A system is generally installed in a few hours – our detailed site surveys allow us to know exactly what is required on the installation date.

GT – What happens if a Smokythek machine breaks down? What’s the average wait for a call out to repair it? Do you service these machines yourselves?

cs-unit-openYes, as mentioned we have our own field technicians and generally have a service level agreement of 24 hours emergency callout. Trials have indicated that there is very little that goes wrong with the system, and most problems can be resolved over the phone.

GT – Where can the Smokythek system be viewed?

Smokythek is available for a full demonstration at our showroom in Leicester – please contact me for further details.

GT – Do you have a web site with more details of these machines?

Readers can visit www.clemthek.com or ring me on 0116 235 5000, and I can send a brochure.

GT – What UK or EU standards do the Smokythek system dispensers comply with?

All Smokythek dispensers have full CE certification.

GT – Finally, what are your PLANS for the Smokythek system in retail in the UK? Where do you see Smokythek going from here?

p1020013Our aim is to make all retailers and trade aware of the Smokythek system and how it is readily available as a permanent solution for the display ban. We will build momentum in our marketing campaign in the UK late 2010, so look out for us at the trade shows. We are always looking for retail partners to showcase the systems, so if you are interested please contact me.

Clemthek UK Ltd   Tel: 0116 235 5000   www.clemthek.com

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