September 21, 2020
Stoptober – the annual festival of quitting smoking – is just days away and after a difficult year for many vape retailers (and a revelatory one for some convenience stores), this year’s campaign is likely to be of huge importance to the category, says Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski.
Jason Birks, who runs the Moscis local store in County Durham, is one of many retailers who sees the month-long campaign as a significant opportunity to transition smokers away from combustible tobacco and towards something less harmful.
He says: “During Stoptober we run promotions, especially on starter kits, and vaping is something we’re known for, so it does help. We’ve had a group of people who have quit smoking because of vapes.”
The needs to be those smokers who are trying to kick the habit of a lifetime therefore needs to be at the heart of any Stoptober planning.
“Retailers should take note of the specific needs of transitioning smokers when considering their product offerings while the campaign is active,” says Paris Mannion, marketing manager for Nextgen360, manufacture of the Edge e-cigarette brand. This means more than simply ensuring tobacco and menthol flavoured e-liquids are available around the clock, too.
“While the intensity of a smoking habit can vary between consumers, it is most likely that those who are looking to quit will naturally gravitate towards next generation products that closely replicate the experience they previously enjoyed,” says Mannion.
Edge Hybrid is one example of a product which goes beyond the usual capsule or e-liquid experience. With a cigarette-like mouthfeel and a ‘filtered vape’ system, Edge believes its newest device is perfect for the month ahead.
“As the first filtered vape, Hybrid combines the simplicity and ease of use of pod systems with a familiar filter tip, complete with an integrated menthol crushball that is sure to appeal to recent ex-smokers,” Mannion says. “This device has been specifically designed to bridge the gap between smoking and vaping and, in the context of Stoptober, presents retailers with an exciting opportunity to capture more footfall than ever before.”
For Jason Birks, the new Edge device represents a key opportunity for this year’s Stoptober: “Because of Covid and lockdown, vape companies have not been putting as many new products out so there hasn’t been very much new on to the market. The one new device we have is the new Edge filtered vape. Customers haven’t heard of Edge Hybrid yet but the brand is a good seller for us in general, so I think it will be the next big thing for us.”
Edge isn’t alone in pushing vape technology towards as realistic a tobacco experience as possible. Of course, IQOS (which, according to some, stands for ‘I Quit Ordinary Smoking’) is the only alternative to combustible tobacco that still offers the familiar ‘real tobacco’ experience of smoking. Upfront costs for the system have come right down this year as a result of its £10 trial ahead of the menthol ban.
And even traditional closed systems have upped their games when it comes to offering a realistic tobacco flavour (and, thanks to nicosalts, a proper ‘throat hit) to transitioning smokers. JUUL’s Rich Tobacco and the new RELX system are two great examples of how close vaping can match combustible tobacco, if that’s what you want.
Menthol smokers should also benefit from the broad spectrum of new menthol flavours which where brought to market ahead of this year’s menthol ban. These include Vype’s Peppermint Tobacco, Just Mint and Creamy Mint capsules and JTI’s Nordic Spirit Tobacco Pouches among many others.
The month of Stoptober is as much an online event as anything and vape businesses of all kinds are already letting customers know about Stoptober-themed promotions via platforms such as Twitter. Vampire Vapes are currently hunting for three ambassadors who currently smoke but want to use Stoptober to finally say goodbye to cigarettes. The lucky smokers will be given free products and personal advice to get them through a full smoke-free month.
Yet – and give yourselves a second to let this one sink in – not everything you read online is always 100 percent true and for this reason EDGE says retailers can play an important role as trusted sources of information as they transition to vape.
“The extent of information surrounding vaping, both good and bad, will often mean that potential customers will seek a better understanding of what they will be purchasing,” says Mannion. “Clear messaging and campaigns around education, understanding the differences between vaping and smoking, and establishing what vaping products are right for particular needs will greatly encourage better engagement with the category.”
Suppliers are keen to emphasize the fact that in-store displays are an area where stores are given enviable freedom to attract and communicate with those smokers who might choose now to quit.
John Patterson, sales director at JUUL says: “Unlike tobacco, there are no display restrictions on vaping products so retailers can have them visible in store. The shopper journey starts outside the store, so we would recommend, where the local council permits, an A-frame outside the store calling out that the store stocks JUUL. Then we look at windows and door POS to highlight any new products or promotions inside.”
Stoptober isn’t a silver bullet to the challenge of cutting smoking rates. As Jason Birks says: “Some go back to smoking after trying it while others end up staying on with zero nicotine products – it’s a real spectrum.”
What is known, however, is that smokers quit better when they do it as part of a team – with the right support available – and with the government’s attention fixed elsewhere (and Public Health England’s disbandment putting state backing for Stoptober potentially in doubt) it will be up to retailers this year to make a positive difference to their customers’ wellbeing, and wallets, this year.
Are you ready for the challenge?
Three steps to having a great Stoptober
Ensure your customers who vape – and more importantly, who smoke – know that Stoptober is on and that your store is a destination to find products and support throughout the month.
Great prices, particularly on starter kits, might make all the difference in getting smokers to try vape. The harm reduction of vaping compared to smoking is key but the difference in cost will certainly sway some.
Customer service is one of the strengths of any good local shop. Keep an interest in any quitter’s efforts and be ready to offer advice or alternative products to anyone on the look out for the right stop smoking aid for them.