ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Some U.S. Walmart stores will stop selling cigarettes, reports the Wall Street Journal. Some stores in Arkansas, California, Florida and New Mexico will halt sales of tobacco products, and in some of these stores, Walmart is replacing the areas that held the products with more self-checkout registers, as well as other items such as grab-and-go food or candy.
A Walmart spokeswoman said the retailer is removing tobacco products from certain stores in order to use the space more efficiently.
“We are always looking at ways to meet our customers’ needs while still operating an efficient business,” she told the Journal.
Removing tobacco products from stores has been an internal debate at Walmart headquarters for years, says the Journal. CEO Doug McMillon has pushed other leaders in the company to find a way to stop selling tobacco, without demanding that the company stop. But many top leaders in the company say that cigarettes are legal products, and Walmart shouldn’t be in the business of morally policing its shoppers.
The Journal reports that cigarette sales at Walmart are generally less profitable than some other items sold near the front of stores such as candy.
CVS eliminated tobacco sales in 2014, and Target stopped selling tobacco products in 1996.
U.S. cigarette sales totaled about $95 billion last year, and most of those purchases occur at gas stations and convenience stores, according to data from Euromonitor International. Walmart supercenters and other mixed retailers accounted for 14% of U.S. cigarette sales volume in 2020, according to Euromonitor.
See how cigarettes fared for convenience stores in the Category Close-Up article “Smokin’ Sales” in the digital copy of NACS Magazine.