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RYO tobacco has been growing fast and tobacco companies have been busy with new product development. But do RYO shoppers buy more than tobacco in convenience stores? In-depth independent analysis suggests the answer is yes.


RYO has been the star of the tobacco category for some time. In a market marked by by high and accelerating taxes and by marketing restrictions it has been one sub-category that has shown significant growth.
So much so that the biggest-selling RYO brand, Amber Leaf, is now said by its owner JTI to have the greatest volume sales of any tobacco product in Scotland.
So who buys RYO and what can we find out about their shopping behaviour and their commercial importance to convenience operators?
HIM Research & Consulting, the leading market analysis firm in the convenience channel, which runs the comprehensive Convenience Tracker Programme that analyses sales and interviews consumers on actual shopping visits, has some fascinating insight.
Some 35% of convenience shoppers consider themselves smokers and of those one in four smokes RYO.
So, the analyst points out, some 9% of convenience shoppers smoke RYO, a significant proportion of a typical c-store’s customer base.
And around 2% (one in 50) of all convenience store baskets currently contain RYO tobacco, HIM has found. And that’s a share that has been stable for the last five years.
But perhaps of greater importance is the fact that 72% of RYO shoppers told HIM that RYO had been the main category that had taken them to the store.
And, while a little under a third bought just RYO, more than two thirds bought one or two further items and the RYO shopper’s typical basket spend was £9.84.
So what additional products are those “RYO and more” shoppers most likely to buy?
HIM found that soft drinks led the list at 17%, alcohol was next at 16%, with confectionery at 15%, bakery lines at 14% and milk at 11%.
And there are other reasons for retailers to value RYO shoppers highly.
HIM found that RYO purchasers were frequent and loyal c-store customers, visiting on average 4.3 times a week compared to the general average for c-store shoppers of 3.8 times per week.

68% – of RYO shoppers buy one or two additional items
£9.84 – average basket spend of RYO shoppers
53% – of RYO shoppers will buy RYO in 12.5g packs

While many firms have developed new RYO “solutions” in a variety of sizes and formats including packs designed to hit attractive price points the HIM surveys found that most RYO shoppers most frequently bought traditionally sized packs.
Of shoppers buying RYO 53% will buy 12.5g packs, 40% will buy 25g packs and 7% will buy 50g packs.
The typical RYO tobacco shopper is younger than the average convenience shopper. Some 39% were in age groups under 34 but the biggest single share was taken by the 35-54 year old age group which accounted for 36%.
And while most RYO shoppers (55%) were male that suggests that around 45% were women.
Interestingly HIM found that the reverse was true for cigarettes shoppers where 45% were male.
While around 17% of convenience shoppers were in the best-off socio-demographic groups (AB) only 7% of RYO shoppers were AB.
At the other end of the socio-demographic scale some 27% of convenience shoppers were categorised as DE shoppers while some 39% of RYO shoppers were DE.
HIM Research & Consulting is a leading research-based retail consultancy that works with retailers, wholesalers and brands throughout the industry and has specialised in knowledge of the convenience channel for more than 20 years.
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