Get on top of your cigars

Scandinavian Tobacco Group’s Jens Christiansen sets out his view of the cigar category in convenience stores

Jens Christiansen
Jens Christiansen’s top piece of advice is to never be caught without cigar stock.

SMOKERS know their way around the cigarette gantry, but cigars can be a bit of a mystery to both consumers and retailers.

Fortunately, Jens Christiansen, head of marketing and public affairs at Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG), sat down with Scottish Grocer to paint a clearer picture of the category and the opportunities it presents.

Jens admits that pinning down the target market for cigars isn’t as easy as in some other categories, but he reckons their appeal may be broader than some people think.

Café Créme

“The cigar consumer is an elusive animal,” said Jens.

“But actually, when we look at it across Europe what we find is that there is a surprisingly large amount of women cigar smokers.

“That being said, it’s probably not the big cigar, not a Henri Wintermans, but the likes of Cafe Creme and Moments cigars which are surprisingly popular among women.”

The cigar consumer, according to Jens, is usually someone who has started by picking up cigarette smoking and for one reason or another has decided to pick up cigars.

“It could be because they want to cut down and then instead of buying a pack of cigarettes a day they buy a pack of cigars to last them a week.

“Then there’s something about lifestyle a little bit like switching from beer to wine.”

Retailers shouldn’t just be mindful of the kinds of consumers who might be on the look out for cigars, Jens suggested the category is also quite occasion driven with peaks in winter and summer.

“There are seasons in tobacco, there is a summer season and a Christmas season.

“Barbecue weather is a good time, especially with guys standing around the barbecue, maybe having a beer and a smoke. It’s also a huge season simply because you can go outside pubs fairly easily to smoke.

“We see a larger spike in bigger cigars towards the end of the year around the festive season when it becomes more of a reward.

There is obviously an uptick around summer time for weddings and stuff like that, but it’s much more at Christmas. That’s when we see the likes of half coronas spike dramatically,” he said.

When we look across Europe what we find is that there is a surprisingly large amount of women cigar smokers.

Half corona, cigarillo, panatella – there’s no shortage of lingo to learn in the cigar category which can make ranging tricky, but Jens had advice for retailers who want to make sure they tick all the boxes.

“The volume is in miniatures so my suggestion would be to stock a value for money brand and a premium brand and by doing that you would cover yourself for something like 90% of the volume being sold,” he said.

“I would say you need Moments in there to cover off your value for money and cafe Cafe Creme to do your premium side.

“If you want to put in a third I would probably put in Hamlet simply because of the heritage, there are still a lot of older consumers out there who appreciate that.”

Jens added that it might be worthwhile stocking a panatella sized cigar as even though the volume may be lower, the category is still worth £80m in the UK according to STG.

But whatever way retailers decide to go in their gantry, Jens reckons the critical step is to make sure stocks never run out.

“I can’t give better advice than just never run out, because customers will go somewhere else and if they find that place is better than yours they will stay there, so don’t give them a reason to try another place.”