C-store update - the battle for market share is on..

January 17, 2009 - Since acquiring UST the Philip Morris (PM) salesperson is now even more aggressive - young female African American - tells owner the UST sales force will only be handling returns. (UST is one of the few tobacco companies that will give credit for expired products). We wonder if Altria will reduce the size of UST's sales force like they did after the acquisition of John Middleton - Black&Mild Cigars. We know Altria Group Inc., expects to lay off 34 UST employees in mid-March, including two vice presidents and two senior vice presidents and close the UST Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, which employs 350, by the end of the year.

The PM rep looks over the checkout counter area and points out the signage she wants removed. Click on image below to enlarge - bullet-proof glass to the right of checkout counter to be removed: Camel SNUS display, Bailey's Cigarettes sign (upper right corner) and an American Spirit cigarettes sign (lower right corner). Once the store owner signed the PM Retail Leaders Agreement, PM has control of the area around the checkout counter.

The previous C-store update pointed out that PM will be reducing the price of UST's Copenhagen and Skoal Moist Snuff one dollar starting February 1, 2009.

Reynolds American/Conwood is responding by introducing two new flavors of Grizzly and having a special promotion patron gets a free lighter with purchase. Conwood's Kodiak, that competes at the premium moist snuff level with Altria/UST's Skoal and Copenhagen, price will be reduced one dollar.

Take a look at our Camel Snus sign with a digital display below - click on image to enlarge. The c-store owner asked the RJR salesperson if he needed the sign any longer. The salesman indicated the sign will no longer be used (e.g. sign specifies 20-pouches now each can has only 15-pouches) and the store owner could keep it.

We are predicting that the test marketing of SNUS products in the U.S. and Canada will fail. Tobacco companies were in agreement for SNUS to catch on and be a strong seller it's going to require more public awareness and education. But even programs to station a person in c-stores passing out coupons for a free can of Camel SNUS or flooding the market with free cans of Camel SNUS doesn''t seem to work.

Previous C-Store Update.