Building the Foundation

Published in CSP Daily News

NATO Show kicks off with NATO-CSP Tobacco Survey insights

By  Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

LAS VEGAS -- In the kickoff session of the first annual NATO Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday, there was another first: A National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO)-CSP Tobacco Survey that will serve as "foundation research" for future surveys to come. The survey, sponsored by Swedish Match, drilled down into tobacco category specifics of 160 convenience stores and tobacco outlets representing nearly 11,000 stores.

"The idea here is that we actually build a foundation, so we have some insights and facts for informed decision-making," said J. Michael Marks, managing [image-nocss] partner of Melbourne, Fla.-based Indian River Consulting Group.

When it comes to cigars, tobacco shops draw 23% of their tobacco revenue from the category, while c-stores were at 7%. Tobacco shops had an average of 430 cigar SKUs, while c-stores carried 59.

While Marks said cigar product mix is likely to differ depending on region, as well as type of store, he added that there are opportunities to be had for all. "One of the things that's important is that if you don't have representation in the premium side at all or on the domestic side at all, you're closing yourself off from a customer who may choose, in their best interest, to migrate."

For pipe tobacco, the c-store is a "marginal player," according to Mitch Morrison, vice president and group editor of CSP magazine. The category accounted for 1% of c-store tobacco revenues, and four SKUs. In tobacco shops, it accounted 7% of revenue. Tobacco shops averaged 31 SKUs of standard and 14 SKUs of hookah; Morrison added that there has been "an uptick in consumer preference for hookah" lately.

Cigarettes were an area where there was a lot of commonality between c-stores and tobacco shops, although they accounted for 80% of tobacco revenue in c-stores and 51% in tobacco shops. Tobacco shops generally carried 238 SKUs, while c-stores hold 182.

Moist smokeless tobacco (MST) accounted for 6% of tobacco revenues in tobacco shops, and 9% in c-stores. Tobacco shops carried an average of 47 SKUs, while c-stores were not far behind with 37 SKUs. Morrison said, "As tobacco sets start to shift from cigarette heavy in convenience stores, we're seeing greater featuring of MST, both in terms of premium and nonpremium brands."

The survey also looked at the "most significant" new products over the past 12 months.

"You need to have the products that people want, but you also want to be able to surprise," Morrison said.

For cigars, there was no Secretariat that was winning the race, according to Morrison, with no single product garnering more than 5% of votes. "Our survey actually found there was equally as much engagement and enthusiasm about some of the packaging innovation."

For cigarettes, Marlboro Special Blend "had taken off" with 28% of the votes. Morrison said he was also "pleasantly surprised" by Newport Non-Menthol's 10%, since it only debuted a couple of months prior to the survey. He added, however, that pricing incentives could be playing a role.

For MSTs, Copenhagen wintergreen had 30% of the votes. While vibrancy is good for manufacturers' bottom lines, Morrison said they are also looking at what is happening overseas and spending many advertising dollars to raise awareness. Retailers, he said, should be examining how they can be "piggybacking" on those efforts.

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