For most consumers, lighters, ashtrays, papers, matches and pipes may be impulse purchases, but for c-stores, they shouldn’t be an afterthought. Granted, tobacco accessories account for the smallest percentage of tobacco-related transactions, both in numbers and dollars, but each additional basket item offers a chance to boost profits with every tobacco sale.
Even at an average price of $1.82 per unit, according to IRI research, this category offers a lot of potential. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates 1 billion lighters are sold each year. IRI reports U.S. c-stores sold nearly 155 million units of items considered tobacco accessories for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 29, 2019.
However, as cigarette sales continue to fall year after year, accessories have also taken a hit. IRI data revealed the category’s unit sales dropped by 2% over the past year.
Although lighter sales haven’t burned out for John Archer, who owns the Shell Food Mart in Hinsdale, Ill., he has seen a downtick since the state went to 21 minimum purchase age last July. “With the dip in cigarette sales, we’ve had a dip in lighter sales,” he said.
For stores located in areas that incurred stricter tobacco regulations, the circumstances have delivered an even larger blow to the category. In Minnesota, many of the Bobby & Steve’s Auto World sites