August 10, 2020
Whether we end up being just weeks from another full national lockdown or continue to enjoy a slow return to our busy social lives, the autumn party season will go ahead in earnest.
From October to December a litany of events such as Hallowe’en, Guy Faulks’ Night and Diwali create opportunities for retailers to drive shoppers towards categories that will help them have fun.
Of course, this will be a year like no other thanks to social distancing. Yet, as one senior industry figure says, 2020 will be about making the BNO into the BNI. Need that translated? The big nights out that define the party season will likely big nights in this year.
That means retailers need to have the right alcohol, snacks and confectionery ranges – it also means they need to have the right availability of vape products.
Nick Geens, head of Logic and reduced-risk products at JTI, says: “In order to grow vaping sales throughout the autumn season, it’s crucial that retailers invest in the category to provide a successful offering and maximise sales. Vaping products should be displayed prominently in store, in a clear and tidy display to ensure customers are aware of the choice and range available.”
This is important whether shoppers are partying at home or out in a bar because vape products can become a distress purchase at these moments, just as the cigarettes these same customers once smoked were. That means customers will be expecting to pick up their favoured brand in a convenient, local store, whether or not it has a specific reputation for stocking vape products.
Kenton Burchell, trading director at Bestway Wholesale says: “Evidence suggests that consumers are becoming more brand loyal, and they will shop around to find their preferred product whether that be brand, flavour or strength. If they don’t find what they are looking for, they will move on to the competition. It’s for this reason it will become more important for retailers to offer a wide range of products at a competitive price, with regular offers such as three 10ml liquids for £10.”
Bestway offers major brands including Logic Compact, LQD, myBlu and Vype for delivery nationally from its 23 hub depots nationwide. It’s a further sign that retailers who, up to now have not focused on vape, need to at least stock a core range of recognised names.
Then, it is all about displaying them prominently. “For those looking to introduce vaping products for the first time, a countertop display solution is a viable option to test consumer response to the introduction of the category,” Geens advises.
It is worth noting that getting the right brands in stock is particularly important in the fast-growing closed, or pod, system sector where, unlike with open systems, capsules are only compatible with their own brand’s device.
Geens says: “A successful vaping offering includes stocking a full, consolidated range and maintaining good availability. It is important that retailers recognise which devices and liquids are proving particularly popular with vapers, like pod vaping devices, which are currently the fastest-growing segment in the category.”
This is particularly important because the broadening category means different products can offer consumers very different experiences. Kate O’Dowd, head of field force at Philip Morris Limited says: “No single smoke-free product will appeal to all current smokers and so providing a wide range of alternatives for smokers who can’t or won’t quit is the best way to meet their preferences, now and in the future.”
The IQOS system produced by Philip Morris offers a heated tobacco experience that is in many ways the most similar to traditional combustible tobacco, without the tar and many other chemicals associated with these products.
Similarly, at social events discreet options such as nicotine pouches may well come into their own. Currently representing more than 90% of the market, Nordic Spirit recently gained a new flavour with Elderberry joining Mint and Bergamont Wildberry at both 6mg and 9mg strengths.
Other major manufacturer-backed brands are also emerging such as Imperial Tobacco’s ZoneX, making it likely that the nicotine pouch market will be an area to watch in the months ahead.
Nonetheless, it is frustratingly difficult to prepare for trading in the current world and it’s understandable if retailers feel overwhelmed by the task.
Fortunately, being ready for autumn 2020 is likely to be about getting the basics right: availability, ranging, customer service.
Nick Geens says: “Through stocking a full, consolidated range and maintaining good availability, retailers can provide a successful vaping offering to their customers.”
Get this right and you’ll be taking a big step towards success this autumn, whatever it brings.
Easy tips for a season of success
Stock a core range
Brand-loyal shoppers will expect their product to be available in your store. This is particularly important with closed systems.
Have simple, clear and clean display
In an age of mask-wearing and customers queuing outside, people want to know what’s available quickly. A great display will showcase your range.
Look at your sales data
Local trends will affect your vape category and looking through recent sales data will allow you to tailor your range to your store.
Keep up to date with launches
New flavours, devices and even new market segments (filtered vape, for example) have already arrived in 2020 and more are on their way.
Be ready for sudden changes
If nightclubs open expect a big rush. Equally, if a tighter lockdown returns then your sales patterns could be transformed.