Back in 1998, premium cigars accounted for 39.7 percent of all merchandise sales in specialty smoke shop, based on our annual survey of sales performance among tobacco shops for that year. The face of the premium cigar industry has changed considerably in the years since then, but for the average retail shop, the merchandise mix has remained surprisingly similar. According to our latest survey of tobacco shop performance for the calendar year 2001, premium cigars accounted for 37.4% of all merchandise sales, a figure which has barely changed from three years earlier.
The fastest-growing merchandise segment in recent years has been domestic cigarettes (which includes RYO), topping out at 16.1% of total store sales among this year's sample, up from 13.6% in last year's report. Imported cigarettes remained steady at 4.6% among the respondents in our most recent survey.
Non-premium and machine-made cigars showed a small jump in sales, rising from 5.1% in 2000 to 6.6% last year. Pipes (-1.4%), pipe tobaccos (-2%), humidors (-.5%), and smoking accessories (-6.%) all posted declines in terms of percentage of total store sales. Smokeless tobacco share rose slightly, from 1.3% to 1.7% last year.
Overall, tobacco and related merchandise accounted for 88.4% of all store sales last year, compared to 90.6% in 2000.
At the same time, non-tobacco merchandise grew from 9.4% of store sales in 2000 to 11.6% in 2001, with the largest single tracked category jump coming from lottery ticket sales (4.9% of store sales last year, versus 1.7% in 2000). Formerly significant categories like candy, newspapers, or themed clothing each accounted for less than 1% of merchandise sales.
The price points of premium cigars sold was somewhat surprising among our surveyed sample: slightly fewer inexpensive cigars sold and slightly more higher priced ones, both in single stick and boxed sales.