Lighters still lead the tobacco accessories category, but options such as vaping items are growing popular.
By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Editor
Tobacco accessories, whether it’s lighters, papers, cartridges or other products, are essential convenience store inclusions that help stores tally additional
Of these products, lighters are a particularly key impulse item often purchased by smokers. Generally kept near the register to spur spontaneous purchasing, the colorful appearance of these merchandise items and wide variety of price ranges can induce customers to spend a little more.
Sales of tobacco accessories in convenience stores topped $265 million in the 52 weeks ending March 25, 2018, a 2.52% increase over last year, according to scan data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI), a Chicago-based market research firm. Unit sales rose slightly, to more than 150 million.
Newer accessories that are garnering attention in the channel include herbal wraps and organic rolling papers.
Busy Bee, the Madison, Fla.-based chain of some 18 stores in Florida and Georgia, where the tagline is “Thriving in the Hive,” has found steady success among patrons who know what they want.
Megan Forcey, director of advertising and e-commerce at Busy Bee, said the busy retailer is somewhat traditional when it comes to tobacco accessories. Busy Bee is part of Johnson & Johnson Inc.
“We just stick to the basics that we know will be successful,” said Forcey. “We primarily carry BIC lighters, and also an assortment of the Zippo lighters.”
A few years ago, the c-store chain incorporated its own line of lighters.
“Our Busy Bee-logo lighters are very popular, and many of our customers will pick up these on their way through. However, BIC is our best-selling lighter by far. Lighters with images depicted [on their sides] always seem to do really well too.”
Forcey believes the Busy Bee-branded lighters’ popularity has much to do with their low price points and what she termed “the whimsy of our branding,” built around fun and memorable taglines like “The Hive That’s Worth the Drive,” and “Clean Potties, It’s Our Beeswax.”
When it comes to merchandising tobacco accessories, Busy Bee stays with its contract regulations by utilizing behind-the-counter displays, “which work great for our company,” Forcey said. “Attention can be drawn to these displays, with various signs and offers that can occasionally sway a guest’s purchasing decision.”
The stores feature a rotating display of BIC lighters, ranging in price and design, making the item appealing to a wide variety of budgets and tastes.
“Being able to provide our guests a variety of options is not only essential but fun for the guests as well,” said Forcey. “Between these options [including] the lower-cost Busy Bee lighter and the Zippo lighters, we have an option that will meet everyone’s needs.”
Sales of cigars, cigarettes and other tobacco products help spur accessory sales at Busy Bee, Forcey said. “We see customers come in to buy cigarettes, and we have worked with our team to prompt the guest to add a lighter to their sale.”
Other c-stores are seeing success with bigger lighters—more specifically, lighters with more butane that produce stronger flames. As the strong-selling cigar segment continues to grow, cigar smokers appear to be gravitating toward quick lighting, butane lighters. Other ancillary accessories can be found in ash trays and humidors or papers for roll-your-own cigarettes.
Within the comparatively new e-cigarette and vaping categories, refillable pod devices have become increasingly popular with those who enjoy vaping.
With new vape brands inundating the c-store channel, pod replacement cartridges are a big favorite with a growing number of U.S. consumers. In addition, coils, batteries and USB cables are becoming more popular. Even the demand for silicone mats is on the rise. Such mats allow users to place parts of the device when filling it with e-juice or cleaning it.
Though Busy Bee convenience stores have not added vaping accessories, Forcey said, “We have seen an increased interest in the flavored vaping products.”