Cigarette and cigar lighters, as well as rolling papers, electronic cigarette accessories, ash trays, cigar cases, cutters and humidors, pipes and pipe accessories, will continue to provide add-on sales at c-stores throughout 2015.
Tobacco accessories accounted for $246 million in sales last year, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI) data. Sales of cigarette lighters, far and away the top-selling tobacco accessory, hinge on balancing old and new: reliable favorites and eye-catching, trendy designs that spark impulse sales.
“We do fairly well with lighters,” said Ross Marchbanks, vice president of Bear Mountain Travel Stop in Bakersfield, Calif. “We don’t carry all that many; maybe 5-10.”
Once again, as with so many c-store categories, proven staples vie for space with new introductions. “You have to carry your standard Bics,” Marchbanks said, “but then we rotate in a few of the novelty lighters every now and then. There is always something fun and exciting, some new hot lighter that comes out, stays for a couple of months and then gets rotated out.”
The same consumers who look for the newest beverages and snacks are just as interested in finding cigarette lighters they’ve never seen before.
“They want novelty, something they think is funny; not 100% practical, but something they’ve never seen before,” Marchbanks said. “Known brands aren’t as popular as you might think.”
Bear Mountain’s top price point is $5.99, Marchbanks added. He said he sees no great advantage in offering consumers a high number of choices. “Having more SKUs doesn’t usually equate to more sales. You’ve got to get the right ones.”
Suggestive selling at the register will continue to fuel impulse sales, both Marchbanks and Couch agreed.
Kizer Couch, who along with his father Kent owns the Stop and Go Mini Mart in Bend, Ore., said he would not be surprised to see lighters and other tobacco accessories decline in sales as a category in 2015 due to the number of consumers switching both to other tobacco products (OTP) and vaping products. “I don’t think it’s going to decline very much, but only by a little bit while people are switching over,” he said.
To try and maintain revenue, Couch recommended retailers stay up on trends and keep bringing in new and different lighter designs—sports teams, local schools, pithy catch phrases, NASCAR and camouflage are typical. “I think you’ve just got to transition into the newer products that people are looking for. That is going to be the main thing. If you carry two or three of them now you might want to bring it up to four or five or more,” Couch said.
Couch’s own store carries the popular $1.49 Bic lighter in a wide variety of designs. “Those are always the best sellers,” he said. “We also carry a cheaper model that’s around 99 cents, but 10 to one we sell the Bics because they are better quality.” Couch’s distributor keeps new designs flowing in all the time.
Bic’s promotional programs have also proven successful in c-stores. In 2014, the company generated stronger sales with its Flicktacular program, which utilized standing displays and offered consumers $60,000 in prizes.