Cigarette Volume Down 11.5%, Nielsen Says

Big dip reveals greater dual use or trial of alternative nicotine-delivery methods
Photograph: Shutterstock

NEW YORK Convenience-store cigarette volumes were down a whopping 11.5% over a four-week period this past spring, according to recent Nielsen data. The drop was possibly due to overall price increases and consumers trying or switching to vaping options.

Nielsen’s decline rates through 2018 ranged from 3.5% to 5%, so the recent four-week numbers stood out, according to one analyst.

The dip in volume for the four-week time frame ending May 18 led to a 7.1% decrease in sales, a rate offset by a 5.1% increase in pricing, said Bonnie Herzog, managing director of consumer equity research for Wells Fargo Securities, New York. Possible reasons for the larger-than-normal volume declines include recent price increases and more consumers trying other nicotine-delivery methods.

E-cigarette sales grew 58.1% over the four weeks, though that figure was weaker compared to a 12-week growth rate of 72.1% ending May 18, Herzog said. Smokeless sales, on the other hand, were soft during that time period, down 0.7%.

Numbers across all channels were similar, with cigarette volumes declining 11.2% during that same four-week period. E-cigarette sales across all channels rose 58.8% and volumes were up 46.4%. Cigar sales declined by 6.7%.

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