Adding a Spark to Tobacco Sales

Customized and novelty lighters offer customers an opportunity to express themselves.

By Howard Riell, Associate Editor.

In simpler times, lighters were used chiefly as a means to an end—lighting up a cigarette, birthday candles or even restarting an oven. Today, however, with the growth of the tobacco accessories category, lighters have become an end in themselves: an expression of personal flair, team affiliation, lifestyle choice or political persuasion. Lighters offer a way for consumers to make a statement.

But convenience store operators have even more to keep in mind when managing this category, such as price points, profitability, seasonality, variety, promotional opportunities and merchandising strategy.

The category’s fortunes are also tied to those of the cigarette industry, which of late have been in decline. In August, for example, Indiana State Rep. Charlie Brown said he intends to propose a statewide smoking ban next session, a move that reportedly will enjoy the support of Gov. Mitch Daniels. “I’m a very big supporter of anything that helps people avoid cigarettes,” Daniels said. “I would say each year there’s been growing public support for (a ban) and so I think there’s a chance next year.”

What’s more, the lighter category itself has a history of controversy. Safety concerns have long dogged novelty lighter manufacturers and retailers and have even resulted in lawsuits. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 19% of reported fires are caused by four-year-olds playing with lighters or matches.

In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that kids under the age of five playing with lighters cause 5,900 residential fires each year.

Despite the fact that many of those fatal fires were started with novelty lighters, only 14 states have enacted legislation to ban them. While all lighters imported or manufactured after 1994 are required by law to be child-resistant, enforcement has traditionally been spotty. Worse, many look, and are used by kids, like toys.

In many cases like this, the retailer can be liable for selling the lighter. For this reason, it is imperative that convenience store retailers work with reputable lighter manufacturers with proven safety records at retail in the U.S.

Satisfying Cigar Smokers
“Lighters are still a significant item for tobacco stores,” said Andrew Kerstein, president and owner of five Smoker’s Haven stores in Matawan, N.J., and chairman of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO). “As c-stores get more into cigars they need to expand their selection of accessories for these categories as  well.”

Kerstein is not suggesting that c-stores begin carrying high-end lighter lines like Colibri, Xikar or Prometheus. “But there are plenty of novelty torch lighters and inexpensive torch lighters that c-stores should be looking at. For example, Jet-Line has a line of torch lighters that retails for $10-$15.”

Like with cigarettes, lighters that are merchandised with cigar smokers in mind should be marketed on the counter in close proximity to their cigar selection.

“This is a great impulse item,” Kerstein said. “I believe that the target consumers for these lighters are cigar smokers and also people who like to collect novelty lighters. I would think that $15 is the break point for a c-store. I would merchandise them on the counter or next to the cigars.”

There is, noted Matt Hieb, category buyer for Jacksonville, Fla.-based Gate Petroleum, which operates 76 c-stores, a great amount of profitability behind the sale of cigarette lighters. “It’s something you’ve got to have if you’re in the tobacco business. It’s just a great item at the counter, maybe the best other than maybe 5-Hour Energy at this point.”

Hieb called the average profit margin on lighters greater than that of the other merchandise his stores regularly carry, but comparable alongside that of other counter items. Gate carries only the BIC brand of lighters.

“We carry a lot of their specialty lighters, like the Luminere lighters and the grill (multi-purpose and outdoor) lighters, but only on a seasonal basis. For daily use we carry the BIC Classic and their mini-lighter.”

Promotional Activity
The chain also usually takes part in quarterly promotions with BIC’s limited-time offerings, like their Grips and Lizards. “Right now we’ve got the NFL lighters coming out, being that we have a big focus in Charlotte and Jacksonville to support the Jaguars and the Panthers.”
Gate keeps its lighter price points somewhere in the middle of the pack, running at $1.59 on a BIC Classic.

Zippo also appeals to personal style and consumer interests with strong promotional ties to NASCAR, this year rolling out the customized Zippo Jeep at the 2011 Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Gate stops short of marketing its lighters to specific customer demographics, Hieb added. “It’s an across-the-chain program.” Indeed, lighter consumers are going in just the opposite direction, using their lighters as a canvas on which to display their individuality apart from any group affiliation.

“We don’t carry the extensive line, with Ed Hardy and all those others ones,” Hieb said. “But I can tell you a lot of the seasonal items and things that BIC puts out people really buy into. Being that we’re focused in the south they do sportsmen-related items, like camouflage lighters and things like that during the hunting season.”

Other seasonal products include patriotically themed designs like American flags or bald eagles during the run up to July 4.

“It’s really driven by where you live and what’s going on in the world, I think,” Hieb said, referring specifically to the Independence Day models. “It makes people proud to see. If you’re carrying an American flag lighter and it’s July 4, you feel like a real American.”

That seasonality may be the single biggest factor in boosting sales of lighters in c-stores. “Promotional opportunities are huge,” Hieb said. “Make sure you have ample inventory. I think a lot of retailers will probably run out. It’s an item you always need to have. It wouldn’t hurt to carry a little extra.”

Flair vs. Price
Colonial Pantry Ltd. in Champaign, Ill., has marketed its own proprietary branded lighter for more than 20 years, according to president John Miller. The 11-store chain sells them for 79 cents each. “There are some people who want an inexpensive lighter, and we might as well advertise.”

The stores also carry a full line of BIC lighters, about 15 SKUs in all. “We do well with both lines,” Miller said.

The choice of lighter—personal flair or price—will vary with the individual, Miller noted. “It’s like cigarettes. If you’re committed to generic cigarettes then that’s what you’re going to buy.”

But the choice of colors, styles, types, sizes, price point and design will remain this category’s greatest strength as it appeals to a growing audience.

 

  • Sobur09

    Nasir
    Leaf Tobacco Industries Limited

    Head
    Office: 85,Suhrawardy Avenue,Baridhara,Dhaka-1212,Bangladesh

    Tel:
    880 2 8832689-91, Fax: 880 2 9860510. Mobile
    : 880 1923 522 729

    Email:
    sobur09@yahoo.com   Skype:
    shahiduzzaman67    MSN: mila_145@live.com

    http://www.nasirgroup.com.bd

    Ref:tabexport/11/51                                                                          October
    18, 2011

     

    Dear Sir

    We are the Nasir
    Leaf Tobacco Industries Limited 
    located at Bangladesh
    has been  involved with tobacco exporting
    business since 40 years with excellent reputation. Tobacco harvest history  in Bangladesh about 100 years ago. Bangladesh
    harvest different type of high quality tobacco like leaf tobacco, air crud,
    Burley & Virginia etc

     

    British American tobacco company established their
    factory in Bangladesh
    since 1972 & have been using Bangladeshi raw tobacco  and also exporting of Bangladeshi tobacco to
    their all sister concern in different country.

    Mentionable that
    we are able to supply our own 2 Brands Cigarettes 20 Sticks “Asia & Tope
    10” & any Brand as on Buyer requirement.

    So, you are requested to use our best quality tobacco
    once for quality justification. Also requested to visit our Booth # L-28 TABEXPO, Czech Republic as on November 15-18,2011
    which organized by Tobacco Reporter.

    FOB,Chittagong Sea Port, Bangladesh  Price of different tobaccos packed in 200kg C-48 Cartons
    ready for export as shown below:-

    Grade

    Variety

    Species

    Type

    Form

    Nic%

    Sugar
    %

    Stock
    in Hand

    Price/kg FOB, Chittagong.

    NC-1

    2010
    Crop

    NC-95

    Tabacum

    Flue
    cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    1.25%

    7.00%

    950 MT

    US$. 3.20

    K-1

    2010
    Crop

    K-326

    Tabacum

    Flue
    cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    2.50%

    7.60%

    350 MT

    US$. 4.00

    Bly-1

    2010
    Crop

    Burley

    Tabacum

    Air
    Cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    2.50%

    2.60%

    700 MT

    US$. 3.50

    Bly-2

    2010
    Crop

    Burley

    Tabacum

    Air
    Cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    2.20%

    2.60%

    1498 MT

    US$. 2.40

    Bly-3

    2010
    Crop

    Burley

    Tabacum

    Air
    Cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    1.50%

    1.60%

    106 MT

    US$. 1.95

    Bly-ROC

    2010
    Crop

    Burley

    Tabacum

    Air
    Cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    2.25%

    2.20%

    2312 MT

    US$. 3.40

    Dry
    Virginia-1

    2009
    Crop

    Air
    Cured Virginia

    Tabacum

    Air
    Cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    2.60%

    2.30%

    600 MT

    US$. 3.00

    Dry
    Virginia-2

    2010
    Crop

    Air
    Cured Virginia

    Tabacum

    Air
    Cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    1.75%

    2.15%

    537 MT

    US$. 2.25

    Motiher-1

    2009
    Crop

    Motiher

    Rustica

    Air
    Cured

    Threshed

    3.10%

    2.10%

    400 MT

    US$. 2.80

    NC-2

    2010
    Crop

    NC-95

    Tabacum

    Flue
    cured

    Tipped
    & Threshed

    0.80
    %

    7.25
    %

    184 MT

    US$. 2.50

     

    (Shahiduzzaman)

    General
    Manager-Export

  • Sobur09

    Tobacco Sell !                                     Tobacco Sell !                                                 Tobacco Sell !

     

    We are the Nasir
    Leaf Tobacco Industries Limited 
    located at Bangladesh
    has been  involved with tobacco exporting
    business since 40 years with excellent reputation. Tobacco harvest history  in Bangladesh about 100 years ago. Bangladesh
    harvest different type of high quality tobacco like leaf tobacco, air crud,
    Burley & Virginia etc

     

    British American tobacco company established their
    factory in Bangladesh
    since 1972 & have been using Bangladeshi raw tobacco  and also exporting of Bangladeshi tobacco to
    their all sister concern in different country.

    Mentionable that
    we are able to supply our own 2 Brands Cigarettes 20 Sticks “Asia & Tope
    10” & any Brand as on Buyer requirement.

    (Shahiduzzaman)

    General
    Manager-Export

    Call
    & SMS: 880 1711 833 780

    Email:
    sobur09@yahoo.com

    http://www.nasirgroup.com.bd

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