When it comes to tobacco accessories, what’s the first thing that clicks in your head? If you said lighters, you’re not alone. Colorful lighters at a value price point are notorious for enticing customers to make last-second impulse purchases at the front counter. Lighters still compose the bulk of accessories sales at most c-stores, but expanding accessories opportunities may be on the way.
While dollar sales for the tobacco accessories category rang in at $273 million for the 52 weeks ending March 24, 2019, according to Chicago-based research firm, IRI, the average unit price was under $2. But as accessories expand, average unit prices may be rising.
With changes in the tobacco industry and a budding patchwork cannabis market, there’s little doubt that the number and types of accessories will present avenues for sales growth. The question is: Which accessories?
“Torch lighters are big,” said Ray Johnson, operations manager of the Speedee Mart chain with 23 locations throughout Las Vegas.
That’s probably because they’re so versatile: windproof, adjustable, durable and refillable. While many torch lighters come with a cigar punch built in, consumers don’t just buy them for lighting tobacco; they’re good for outdoor uses like camping, household work and even cooking.
Torch lighters can be disposables for a couple of dollars, or for $25 and up, there are blow-torch rivaling, heavy-duty units with ignition lock that’ll stay lit for 30 minutes. Most are fueled by butane and are refillable, so stocking the butane will bring some piggyback sales.
Cartridges and Mods
Another growing accessory market can be found in alternatives to combustible cigarettes, including cartridges for e-cigs, and box mods (modified e-cigs) with adjustable wattage. Mods can retail for a couple hundred dollars or more, depending on their sophistication.The best course for retailers may lie somewhere in between pocket vapes and vape pens with more options than e-cigs, but a much lower price than mods.
Meanwhile, in states that have passed more lenient cannabis legislation, suppliers are now offering CBD liquids that work in vaping units.
Papers to Skyrocket
Johnson sees new sales opportunities in CBD products. “We have added CBD papers and CBD cartridges,”he said.
Lou Maiellano, of TAZ Marketing and Consulting Group, said bigger c-store chains may be shy about prominent placement of certain accessories associated with cannabis or CBD, but some independents have no qualms.
For stores in states that have legalized marijuana, rolling papers may be the next accessory to fly high.“Yeah, there’s growth in papers,” said Maiellano. “There’s new opportunities.”
Maiellano said that there are a few paper manufacturers looking to enter the U.S. market that had been dominated by just a few rolling paper brands. There are more varieties, too. Pouch brand papers feature a small pocket to make it easier for beginners to roll. High Hemp and Rizla are two of many papers made from 100% hemp — and some contain CBD. Trip is a clear cellulose paper billed as “tree-free.”
Growth in the rolling papers market, especially in states new to legal cannabis, could be blunted by market overlap from consumers already rolling their own illegal marijuana cigarettes.
While new market avenues in accessories may seem like the Wild West, those with the most general appeal that can move quickly and easily with a reasonable margin will likely do best at c-stores. Expect product manufacturers to target this growing need.