Lighters Remain Tops in Accessories

Late last year, Calico Brands Inc. announced a new line of lighters. The Scripto Ultima is being promoted as a premium pocket lighter with a designer touch.

Individuals can dress up the device with different wraps. Functionally, it offers many of the standard features found with other pocket lighters. The new offering is another example of producers trying to trigger purchase decisions by appealing to consumers’ reactions to visual stimuli, and it’s common practice for items considered tobacco accessories.

However, because items such as lighters and ashtrays compose such a small portion of c-stores’ total inventory, the category sometimes is an afterthought for owners and operators, or is difficult to capitalize on in order to boost profitability.

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“After a couple of different attempts over the past years [to add more variety], sales in this area have proven to be soft, so we are reluctant to give up valuable and needed space to try this again,” said Mallorie Hardesty, category manager for Certified Oil Co., based in Columbus, Ohio, the business owns and operates convenience stores and fuel retailers in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

However, the category’s potential shouldn’t be discounted even though cigarette sales have dropped an industry average of approximately 3% every year for the last few years. The rise of electronic nicotine delivery systems has offered new opportunity in accessories like batteries.

Also, an expanding cannabis industry, is generating a demand for accessories.

“Tobacco use has been steadily declining while marijuana consumption has been increasing,” said John Madigan, an analyst with IBISWorld.

As of mid-February, eight states have legalized recreational marijuana, and another 12 are contemplating similar bills. Nineteen states have enacted legislation to permit marijuana use for medical purposes.

Within the tobacco accessories category, standard disposable lighters remain a top seller, and BIC USA Inc., maintains a stronghold. According to scan data by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, the company commanded nearly 90% of the dollar share among U.S. convenience stores for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2017.

The remaining listing is was divided up among the following: Halpern Import Company, 3.30%; Calico Brands Inc., 0.89%; MK Lighters, 0.70%; and Wing Sale, 0.66%.

In terms of dollar figures, BIC USA recorded more than $555 million for the same period, which is up from the $534 million earned in 2015. Halpern Import’s 2017 earnings reached more than $20 million, and competing lighter brands posted less than $6 million each.