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NTDE rolls out Smokers' Centres

Smokers' Centres are set for expansion across the UAE.

Smokers’ Centre, the tobacconist arm of the UAE’s National Trading and Developing Est. (NTDE), is continuing its expansion with the opening of a new store in Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates.

The new 845 sq ft store, which gives the Smokers’ Centre 32 outlets in its UAE network, stocks almost 3000 SKUs including international brands of premium cigars from Cuba, pipe tobacco and luxury smoking accessories, and cigarettes.
The development is part of the Smokers Centres’ growth strategy of rolling out new stores within shopping malls.

“We are opening more and more outlets mainly in the large shopping malls,” Ebad Ahmadi, director of NTDE’s tobacco division told Retail News Middle East. “We are in most of the shopping malls, which are located in convenient locations. This year we will be opening two more new Smoking Centres,” Ahmadi added.

One of these stores will be a 700 sq ft outlet in the Dubai International Finance Centre and the other a 600 sq ft operation in Jumeirah Beach Residence. “We are also planning to open Smokers’ Centres in any major shopping centre that opens up, like Mall of Dubai, Mall of Arabia,” Ahmadi said.

“Our aim is to be in all the shopping malls. That’s very important for us. People go there just to roam around and they find it convenient. We get most of our sales from the shops we have in the shopping malls.”

The success of the Smokers’ Centres is partly due to a rising demand for tobacco products across the Middle East, where the overall sector is estimated to be growing at a rate of about 5% to 6%.

NTDE has also found that its Smokers’ Centre concept, which offers a full-range of smoking products from each outlet, is increasingly popular with discerning smokers who want a wider choice than just the main cigarette brands offered by many retail outlets. “The Smokers’ Centres are a perfect choice for smokers because they can get whatever they are looking for. We have about 6000 SKUs,” Ahmadi said.

Aside from its Smokers’ Centres in malls, the company also has nine kiosks in supermarkets including Spinneys, and is in negotiations with other hypermarkets to set up more kiosks.
Despite the strong growth of the industry, the tobacco sector has its share of challenges. Ahmadi points to tax increases on tobacco products, which are encouraging parallel imports of cheaper brands.

“The overall tobacco market is growing, but due to the tax increase that we had there are lots of unknown brands being imported and sold at very low prices, and this is affecting the official imported brands,” he said. “Our estimates show that about 30% to 35% of the total market is made up of parallel imported brands.

Smokers’ Centre also experienced a problem with counterfeit sheisha imitating some of its products, although the company responded quickly and now puts holograms on all of its sheisha products to make sure customers buy the genuine product.

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