John McClurey

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John McClurey is an independant retailer[1][2], for more than 30 years, in the North of England[3], and LibDem Councillor for Gateshead[4] since 2008[5], who frequently appears in ASH's media statements purporting to represent all retailers.

Top of his list of complaints is, apparently, that selling tobacco fails to generate sufficient/any profit, so he'd like to stop selling it, and free up all the money that's tied up in tobacco stock on... we're not sure.

And for some obscure reason, he has yet to simply... stop selling it.

May 2010

On being "forced" by evil Big Tobacco to do stuff:

We are always under pressure from the industry reps to broaden our range of stock and try out new products. This means we’re often required to stock products that we wouldn’t otherwise choose to hold. It’s the industry rather than our customers who determine what’s on sale.

I'm not sure business works like that. They may provide incentives like cheaper product, gifts or competition entries, but no-one's forcing you to do it.

August 2010

The first reference found for John is when he's being a tad disingenuous about the cost of 'shutters' to hide cigarettes behind:

I was amazed at how enthusiastic Irish retailers were. Complying with the legislation had not been expensive and sales to adults haven’t been affected. These displays aren’t really aimed at existing smokers; after all nine out of ten smokers know what brand they want before they come in and the rest will make their decision largely on price.[6]

This, along with ASH's claim that shutters would only cost £120[7] in a document that has now gone missing from here (Wayback machine version) were subsequently debunked[8][9].

During the debate over legislation to end retail displays of cigarettes, I remember seeing lobbying claims from trade bodies claiming that the legislation could cost retailers over £10,000. 1 I’ve just worked out the bill for the curtains I will need to put over my gantry for cigarettes – it comes to only £120. And in most cases, the tobacco industry will pay the cost for affected retailers.[10]

Proper retailers on the other hand had more realistic quotes:

[...]retailers are extremely upset. They say the move will damage their businesses — especially as it could cost £1500 to install a special gantry to store the products[11]

Probably taken, as Dick Puddlecote observed[7], from this:


As of 2017, has one listed at £583.33 (£700 after tax.) has one for £440 (£528).

September 2010

Displays won't affect sales because:

“Displays aren’t really aimed at existing smokers – after all nine out of ten smokers know what brand they want before they come in and the rest will make their decision largely on price.”[12]

October 2010

Off to Guernsey next and...

John McClurey (pictured) was in Guernsey last night to give a presentation to local tobacco retailers and States members.

He has been a tobacco retailer for almost 30 years and is also a Liberal Democrat councillor in Gateshead.[13]

January 2011

More myths are peddled in The Guardian:

Professor Ann McNeill suggests that removing tobacco displays will reduce youth smoking in the long term without harming small shops in the short term. I am a small shopkeeper myself. I've been to Ireland and spoken to retailers there and I think she's right. It will make it a little easier for smokers to quit and a little less likely for young people to start. [14]

Strange how, before Standardised packaging come in he claims loss of sales won't harm small shops, yet 6 years later (see below) he claims they're actually a burden he could well do without.

April 2012

It appears that smokers are the only people John seems to have a dislike for:

A COUNCILLOR has been accused of demonising young people after supporting a Facebook page that implores people to ‘stone chavs’.


The page called ‘chavs are freaks, throw rocks at them’ has more than 3,600 fans, which until this week included the Gateshead shopkeeper and former North of England President of the Newsagents Federation.[5]

July 2012

Three decades of selling tobacco allows John to wildly pontificate on standardised packaging:

That’s why I feel it’s so important to present a balanced view on the subject of plain packaging,[15]

says our John, before presenting a highly unbalanced view.

For example the 'packaging makes tobacco irresistible to kids' line is repeated ad nauseam...

Let me say now, I am certain that the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products would reduce the appeal of eye-catching tobacco brands and help lower the temptation for more children to start smoking.

Of course, if only it was illegal for the likes of John to sell them to kids, that might stop them smoking as well. Just sayin'.

And the slippery slope argument rears its head

I don’t believe for a second that this is a slippery slope and that I will be selling chocolate bars or crisps in plain packs in years to come, as the tobacco companies are claiming.

It wasn't just the tobacco companies John.

Plain packs would cause no confusion or extra costs for small businesses like mine.

But what's this? 50 newsagents descending on Westminster to complain the exact opposite will happen?

“It means a lot of extra time while shop assistants find customers’ required brand on their gantry.

“It will cause delay and confusion and newsagents and small shops will lose business as people go elsewhere.

“People often buy chewing gum, a newspaper and other items when they pop in for packet of cigarettes.

“With the shutters to hide cigarette displays coming in next April this is unnecessary.[16]

And here's the Association of Convenience Stores take:

The plan to implement plain packaging for cigarettes will hurt retailers and cause confusion in the industry, claims a leading pressure group.

Chief executive of the Association of Convenience stores James Lowman says the regulations will make it harder for retailers to accurately control stock and place orders and will increase the time it takes to serve customers.[17]

May 2014

A passing mention in another article about illegal tobacco, but he's asked about standardised packaging...

But today John McClurey, 59, whose 66-year-old dad, also named John, died of lung cancer 20 years ago, said more must be done to cut smoking levels.

John, who has owned a newsagent in the West End of Newcastle for more that two decades, said tobacco firms were opposed to plain cigarette packaging because it wiped-out a “unique selling point and advertising”.

He said: “When my dad was dying I had a major problem about what I was selling and I had a long talk with him and what we said was that it was business and I would continue to do what I was doing.

“But I promised to promote anti-smoking campaigns and encouraged people to stop smoking. That’s how I came to terms with that.” [18]

That 'balanced view' didn't last too long.

October 2016

ASH produce a report Counter Arguments - How important is tobacco to small retailers where John unequivocally states in the foreword:

Small retailers in Britain have little choice but to sell tobacco as many of our customers still smoke.

Actually John has every choice to not sell tobacco. It's just that he makes a profit from doing so, and so he's lying when he states

But tobacco makes me very little money while tying up plenty of cash in stock.

The report goes onto blandly state:

Despite the high volume of tobacco sales in convenience stores, accounting for 25% of total sales income in our sample, small retailers make very little money from tobacco. The margin on tobacco products is around 6% compared to an average of 24% for the other products they sell.

But those numbers include the 'cost' of the tax on the products. If a £8 packet of cigarettes generates 48p of profit (using the 6% cited) and you work out how much the packet would cost if it only had 20% VAT on it instead of the 233% it actually did in 2012, then it would cost £2.84. Now that 48p works out as 17% profit. If you treated it as zero-rated (as some of the things in his shop probably are) then it works out as 48p/£2.37=20%.

Or you could use realistic figures instead of cherry picking:

Paul’s top-selling cigarette brand is Marlboro Lights, which he sells with a 13% margin at £6.82, helping him to make a 76p profit on a pack of 20. [19]

June 2017

During the 10-year celebrations of the English tobacco ban, John pops up again...

Tobacco companies try to tell me that I make a lot of money from selling cigarettes, and that if it weren’t for people coming into my shop for their smoking materials I’d have very little business. This is so far from the truth as to be almost funny. It’s true that there’s big money to be made from tobacco, but it’s not made by me - it’s made by the tobacco manufacturers.[3]

On the topic of profit margins:

Tobacco contributes less than 10% of total weekly profits, and average profit margins are only 6.6% for tobacco products compared to 24.1% for all other products.[3]

.. which sorta ignores the fact that while most of the stock in his shop is taxed at either 20% VAT or 0% (presuming he sells zero-rated food) the tax on tobacco can be anywhere from 233% (for an £8 pack) to a massive 900% (for a £5.50 pack. Both 2012 rates)[20]