EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – Clipper UK

This year Clipper is celebrating 40 years since the production of the first Clipper lighter. Since 1972 Clipper has built a strong brand identity in the UK market, resulting in it becoming the number 1 selling refillable lighter in the UK. Clipper’s iconic round shape and refillable, reflintable and reliable features make it first choice in consumer demand.

The bottom line for multiple retailers is that Clipper lighters offer the retailer a high margin return, however potential sales can be lost if lighters are only being merchandised in their trays on the tobacco gantry. Due to the tobacco display ban Clipper have introduced and have been promoting eye catching display stands and fun lighter designs, including London Sports and Football ‘12, to increase visibility and maximize lighter sales for the retailer. Clipper UK Managing Director Bryan Jenkinson spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – First of all, Bryan, as MD do you still get to see the major retailers?

Yes, I do. I’ve spent my career in sales, working closely with the multiple grocers and wholesalers, and believe it’s important to go out to see our customers.

GT – How are you set up to service the major retailers?

Clipper Products are sold here by Clipper UK, the exclusive distributor for all Clipper products throughout the UK and Northern Ireland. We supply directly to the major multiple retailers and the wholesale cash and carry sector, and through distribution partners in the independent wholesale sector.

GT – Who owns Clipper UK?

Clipper UK is a subsidiary of Flamagas S.A. who are the brand owner and manufacturer of Clipper lighters. The Puig family founded Flamagas in Barcelona in 1959. They are also synonymous with major brands in the perfume and cosmetics industries. Flamagas have subsidiaries and distributors in over 90 countries worldwide.

GT – You are celebrating 40 years of the Clipper lighter. Can you bring us up to date?

In 1972 Clipper became the first refillable lighter to be launched in the UK in the semi disposable category. At that time there was an excise duty on all lighters, and Clipper lighters were refillable so they were more cost-effective. Since its launch Clipper has become the world leader and Number 1 consumer brand in refillable lighters. This is primarily due to its instantly recognisable design and high quality specification. Being one of the most prominent brands in the world lighter market, all Clipper Lighters offer the maximum level of guarantee.

GT – Which is your best selling lighter?

It’s the Clipper Classic, which is a style icon and is the most instantly recognisable lighter in the UK market. Consumers of all ages associate with its unique design, quality and refillable tank. It has held its position as the UK’s number one refillable lighter over several decades, and we’ve traditionally sold it in a collection of solid colours. Since we opened our own subsidiary here in 2008, we have developed an exciting range of printed designs and new models to attract consumers who want something more from their lighter.

GT – Are you planning any activities to celebrate Clipper’s fortieth anniversary?

Yes, we are. We are offering various promotional packs, and also giving retailers the opportunity to win a new generation Apple iPad 3 with purchases of 36 + 4 promotional packs, a 3D TV with purchases of a Clipper 4 tier stand, and trips for two to Paris for the best lighter display. Watch this space for further activity surrounding the fortieth anniversary!

GT – You mentioned Clipper lighters offering the maximum level of guarantee just now. What spec are Clipper lighters made to?

Clipper lighters conform to and exceed the ISO 9994 and EN 13869 standards. Clipper lighters, like all other lighters made in the EU, are 100% produced and tested on the production line with no hand working, unlike many Far East-made lighters, which involve a considerable amount of hand work and vary widely in quality. Clipper lighters have a maximum flame height of 50mm and work on pure isobutene gas, giving an odourless and stable flame. They have a nylon body that is flexible, non-crackable and self-extinguishable, and a large gas content, double the capacity of a low quality lighter and equivalent to 3,000 lights. All our lighters are manufactured using only the highest quality raw materials, much of them recycled, and include safety features such as a fixed flame, nylon body and a Child Resistant mechanism. Clipper also incorporates a replaceable flint system that can be used as a tobacco pressing tool, which makes them very popular among “roll your own” cigarette consumers.

GT – What does ‘child resistant’ mean?

As defined in US and EU legislation, a CR lighter is one that has been proved to prevent 85% of children under 52 months old from being able to light it.

GT – Which of your lighters are child resistant?

All our lighters, without exception, are child resistant as compliant with EU law.

GT – Are they marked as such at the point of sale?

Yes they are. All our point of sale material clearly states that our lighters are child resistant, and there is a logo on our lighters with “85%” shown in a circle.

GT – How do you make your lighters Child Resistant?

We feel we have developed the most user-friendly, child resistant lighter system on the market. Our system is unfriendly to a child but perfectly ergonomic for an adult. The child is not able to generate enough of a spark to light them, due to the shorter rotation angle of the pentagonal wheel. The second difficulty is the flat and plain sides of the pentagonal wheel, which give it less grip than the wheels in other lighters and mean it is more slippery for the child’s finger. Also the child’s finger has a smaller effective contact surface on the pentagonal wheels than on the round ones, resulting in additional resistance to sparking the lighter.

GT – How important is the UK as a market for lighters?

We sold over 18 million Clipper-branded lighters and over 27 million lighters in total here in 2011, and look set to achieve this and more in 2012.

GT – How important are lighters and other smokers’ requisites in UK multiple grocery outlets?

Lighters give a very high margin compared to the rest of the tobacco category, and are an additional purchase that every smoker can make. Also, our lighters are not banned from display, so countertop units can be used to emphasize that you have a tobacco section.

GT – Which market sectors are you active in, here in the UK?

We offer our pocket lighter and smokers’ accessories range to the tobacco kiosk area, and our multi-pack pocket lighter, utility lighter and match collection to household departments. Seasonal lighters for barbecues and candle lighters are also offered in these sectors.

GT – Can you talk us through the range that Clipper UK offer?

Our lighters cover Clipper Flint in Standard and Micro sizes. Our Electronic collection is the Clipper Large and Clipper Fit. Our Metal collection includes the Clipper Flint model and Metal covers. Our Utility range includes the Clipper Tube and new Wave models. The full Clipper range is refillable.

GT – Can you tell us about your Metal lighter range?

Our Metal lighters are a version of the Clipper range with more of a gift feel, but are something of a considered purchase, hence more relevant to the gift and specialist sectors.

GT – Where do you make the lighters that you sell here in the UK?

Clipper lighters are manufactured in our own factories. Each factory is a fully automated facility to ensure that each and every lighter produced is to the same high standard. We manufacture the complete Clipper collection, including designs, in Barcelona. Our other models are produced in our Shanghai and Chennai factories.

GT – What accessories do you offer?

We supply Clipper Butane Gas refills and Clipper Lighter fluid, along with the Clipper Flints and Match collection.

GT – Do you offer any other lighter brands?

Our other brands are Xtra+ and Tokai.

GT – What trends are you seeing in consumer demand for lighters?

We are seeing an ongoing change in consumer taste. Our classic flint solid colour lighter has always been, and still is, our best selling line, however in recent years we have seen a significant increase in demand for three and four tier display stands because of the success of our printed design lighters. When Clipper first started distribution in the UK they were selling just a handful of lines. Clipper UK has since developed this into a whole range, with a wide variety of choice in lighter models, colours, designs and finishes.

GT – Can you tell us about your printed lighter designs?

In Europe printed designs account for 70% of Clipper Classic sales due to the additional space given to the category. Given a choice, younger consumers prefer designs that say something about them or indeed make a talking point among friends. Lighters represent a high margin opportunity to the retailer, and Clipper designs generate additional demand.

GT – What new Clipper products do you have for 2012?

Every year we produce a selection of fun and up to date designs. These include our most popular collections, among them Emoticons, Games and Christmas. New for this year we are introducing the Clipper Wave Utility lighter and a range of licensed football club designs including Arsenal, West Ham United, Liverpool, Leeds United, Newcastle United, Everton and Manchester City

GT – Who buys these products?

Every consumer buying cigarettes or tobacco is a potential lighter customer. Clipper’s refillable flint system can also be used as a tobacco pressing tool, which makes them first choice as the roll your own smokers’ lighter. RYO is extremely popular with younger smokers, and many of them use Clipper lighters and are instantly familiar with the iconic design.

GT – We read a lot about the problem of counterfeit tobacco products, especially since the display ban. Is there a similar problem in terms of counterfeiting lighters?

Counterfeiting lighters is a major problem. Our most commonly copied product is the Clipper Classic in both metal and plastic. We have protected rights on the Clipper shape and brand.

GT – Are you involved in fighting counterfeiting?

Yes, we are. Every one of our lighter trays comes shrink wrapped with a header card on top of the lighters, with a warning printed on the back about counterfeit Clipper lighters and what to look out for. We employ a specialist agency, Surelock, in the UK counterfeit market and have had a lot of success in detecting counterfeit products, with several million counterfeit lighters confiscated to date. The one good thing about being copied is it shows there is a demand for your product. We work very closely with Trading Standards and recently exhibited with them at their conference in Manchester. We have issued posters and other material to the trade to make retailers aware of counterfeit Clipper lighters, which are illegal, first of all, and in breach of trademarks and patents, and secondly are unsafe, as they do not comply with the safety specifications and are not Child Resistant.

GT – The biggest change in tobacco retailing in the UK recently is the display ban. What are the rules now about merchandising lighters in the larger stores affected by the ‘dark’ market?

The changes in legislation prohibit visible tobacco gantries in larger stores, but lighter display stands are still allowed on the counter top. Market research shows placing a Clipper lighter display on the front sales counter can increase sales by as much as 103%. We have a wide selection of eye catching displays available which offer the retailer an opportunity to continue to display these items, increase their margin and maximize the sales potential of lighter and related products.

GT – What have you done to help retailers in this critical area?

To increase visibility and maximise lighter sales for the retailer, we have launched an attractive and eye catching selection of display stands. These also give instant consumer attention to our printed designs as well as other models from the range. All our lighters are merchandised in standardised outers of 40, and we have converted all our products to this size.

GT – As the lighter category experts, how do you work with retailers to help them maximize their sales and profits from these products?

Merchandising lighters in the multiple grocery sector has been quite a challenge recently. In the last three or four months, the display ban in supermarkets meant all the buyers were under pressure to sort out their tobacco products: now they are talking to us about lighter displays, and we are working on a number of projects with individual retailers. Our products aren’t banned from display under the new regulations, so we can help them make their tobacco department more obvious to shoppers with counter top display units.

GT – How does the UK compare with other lighter markets?

Individual EU countries differ in how lighters go to market. Spain for example has 26,000 ‘tabacs,’ and the multiple grocers don’t sell cigarettes. In Germany there is a greater trend to tobacco purchasing in independent retailers, with more wholesalers serving them. In the UK lighters have historically been sold on tobacco gantries, but that’s starting to change now with the display ban, which is driving retailers to present lighters in countertop display units. The important point here is that 70% of lighters we sell in the EU feature printed designs, which strongly benefit in sales terms from being displayed, so ironically the ‘dark’ tobacco market is set to help promote lighter purchases.

GT – What trade marketing activities do you have lined up for 2012?

We are present at some of the biggest retail shows in the exhibition calendar – the Nisa/Today’s and P&H Pro Retail Shows and are attending the Musgrave Retail Trade Show in July and in September the Costcutter Retail Exhibition, where we will be promoting the Clipper range of designs and display units.

GT – Are you doing any consumer marketing or sponsorship?

We have done work over the years at concerts and festivals, and via our web site, both on our own and with people who use our brand, and we will continue to do so. Clipper lighters are close to the hearts of many music fans and musicians, including The Streets, who use the image of a visibly Clipper lighter in their logo. With regard to advertising lighters, there is no restriction whatever on what we can do, but on an ethical basis we choose to confine our activities to the over 18’s.

GT – Finally, where do you see Clipper UK going from here?

We want to maximize the demand for our products, while staying true to our strategy of offering classic products and not extending the Clipper brand into other areas. We are the masters of the lighter industry, and from a category point of view there is a lot to be done to build the market. By taking action across the trade to improve the quality of products on offer by driving out counterfeits and other substandard imports, we will give consumers a better deal. We look forward to working with the multiple retailers to extend Clipper’s presence in these outlets and maximize the returns for everyone.

Clipper UK

Tel: 01268 662222

www.clipperukltd.co.uk