Convenience store retailers should expect the next cigarette price increase to arrive sooner than the normal November cycle, according to a report by Wells Fargo Securities LLC.
Wells Fargo conducted a survey of its tobacco retailer and wholesaler contacts representing approximately 60,000 U.S. convenience stores to gauge expectations for the next round of cigarette pricing increases.
Bonnie Herzog, managing director – equity research, beverage, household & personal care, tobacco & c-stores for Wells Fargo noted, “According to our contacts, the next cigarette list price increase is expected to be led by PM USA during the week of Sept 18 at $0.08/pack (+2-3%). We agree as we don’t expect manufacturers to wait till the normal November cycle to take a price increase, especially given the severity of volume declines in Q2,” which were related to the outsized impact of California’s $2-per pack increase in excise tax.
“As has been the case in past tax cycles, we expect the industry to further mitigate California tax-driven volume declines with list price increases, partially offset by stronger promo efforts. Longer term, we see further downside to combustible cigarette volumes if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration succeeds with its new nicotine mandate. However, we believe this could be mitigated by smokers potentially smoking more in an effort to get the nicotine levels they require—an ‘unintended consequence’—and increased conversion to reduced-risk products,” she added.