NEW YORK -- Favorable cigarette trends continued into July, according to the latest Nielsen numbers on convenience store and XAOC channel (food, drug and mass) sales. During the four-week period ending July 11, 2015, unit sales declined 0.8%, which Cowen Group analyst Vivien Azer noted was in line with the 12-week trends.
“The 0.8% decline is encouraging, after we saw volume declines accelerate slightly the last four-week period, down 1.4%,” Azer wrote in a research note.
Dollar sales increased 1.8%, which Azer described as “a slight deceleration from the 12-week trend of 1.9% growth, but an improvement from last (month’s) 1.2% growth.”
“Given the continued favorable trends seen from Nielsen data, we are encouraged heading into (Reynolds) and (Altria’s) earnings next week,” Azer continued.
Reynolds American Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C., led the pack in terms of unit and dollar sales: the company’s unit share grew to 32.4% (a 0.3% increase) and its dollar share climbed to 33.1% (also a 0.3% increase). Azer noted the gains came primarily from the Newport, Camel and National American Spirit brands.
Altria Group Inc., Richmond, Va., had its first reported share loss in six periods, with its unit share decreasing by 0.2% (to 53.3%). Azer said the company’s dollar share “fared slightly better,” decreasing by just 0.1%.
The new big player in the United States, Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, Greensboro, N.C., saw decreases to both its unit and dollar shares: volumes fell 0.3% (to 7.9%) with its newly acquired Winston and Salem brands losing each losing 0.1% share and its dollar share decreased by 0.4%.
Trends were more mixed in the e-vapor category.
“The e-cig category's dollar sales grew 1.4% (year-over-year) in the period, a deceleration from the 12-week trend of 15.3% growth, as we anniversary the beginning of Vuse and MarkTen's national launches,” wrote Azer. “Volumes grew a more robust 25.7%, compared to the 12-week trend of 46.7% growth.”
The category was down overall sequentially, with dollar sales decreasing by 2.3% and unit sales decreasing by 1.9%—though Azer pointed out that both dollar and unit sale declines eased compared to 12-week trends, thanks largely to the continued success of Big Tobacco’s vapor products.
“(Year-over-year) growth continues to be fueled by the national launches of Vuse and MarkTen, as dollar sales and volumes fell 23.5% and 19.3%, respectively, excluding the two brands,” Azer said.
In more good news for Reynolds, Vuse not only retained its No. 1 position, but turned around negative share trends from last month. Vuse’s dollar share grew to 34.2% (up 1.1% from last month) and unit share grew to 45.7% (up 1.3%).
Elsewhere, Altria’s MarkTen continued to lose share sequentially, but the declines were less dramatic this month: MarkTen’s dollar share decreased 0.3% (to 5.4%) and unit share decreased 0.4% (to 6.7%). Imperial’s blu also saw its share slip in both dollars and units, decreasing to 24.1% of dollars (down 0.1%) and 18.1% of units (down 0.3%).