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Home Features & interviews Is this going to be “easiest transition ever”? Retailers on the menthol ban and COVID-19

Is this going to be “easiest transition ever”? Retailers on the menthol ban and COVID-19

May 4, 2020

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For the past three months Vape Business has been following a group of retailers’ experiences of preparing for the menthol ban. Little did they, or we, know that the industry would be dealing with a global pandemic weeks later. So, what has it been like preparing in these unique conditions and how ready are they for the arrival of the ban this month? We caught up with them one last time before the ban.

Sam Coldbeck – Premier Wharfedale, Hull

Could this be our best transition?

I have a feeling this is going to be the easiest transition ever because the ban really isn’t on people’s radar because of the lockdown and coronavirus. We’re still making sure we stock the filter tips and the flavour cards and speaking to customers when they come in to buy crushballs to remind them about the ban. But people have a lot of other things on their minds too of course.

Coronavirus is really affecting our sales

A few weeks ago people weren’t taking coronavirus seriously here but this has definitely changed. Our smoking rates have gone up due to the stress of the situation – we have customers telling us that they had quit for five years but have now started again. People are spending more on treats like tobacco, alcohol and premium products because they are furloughed but not going out.

Vape products are starting to benefit

We’re starting to see people coming in for our vape products in recent weeks, particularly for menthol and vape products. This has actually come to the detriment of some other flavours such as strawberry. We’re going to end up doubling or tripling our orders ahead of the ban just to make sure we have enough products in – which I really didn’t see happening even four weeks ago.

Value is a crucial part of the market

We stock some cheaper brands such as 88 Vape and, through Premier, we stock Edge e-liquids on a permanent three for £5 promotion. We also stock the vape pens from Logic and Blu but our customer are attracted by the pricepoints available from the e-liquids. We also stock a Kik device which the Edge and 88 liquids can be used for and that sells for about £10.

 

Kay Patel – Best-one Stratford, London

I’m doubtful the ban will be enforced

I actually think that there will be a lot of retailers who decide to keep selling menthol cigarettes after 20 May – I won’t but I can understand why. There’s no boots on the ground whether that’s reps or trading standards and retailers don’t know when they will get their stock taken back after the ban. How long will they have to hold all of this stock for before it gets redeemed?

Our range is ready for the ban

We have a comprehensive range of options – whether it’s cigarettes or vapes – for any menthol smoker after the ban. But I don’t currently have the time to work out if I have space or time to pre-order a new flavour of HEETS, for example. I’m working morning to evening at the moment and I’m struggling to think why now is the time for brands to launch NPD.

Availability isn’t as important as it was

I think customers are getting used to dealing with whatever stock is available in store at the moment – in any category. So, I think that when the menthol ban does happen customers will be quite happy to move to whichever range of products we have available. Having said that I’m in a better position because I know specialist wholesalers to go to where most products are still available.

Independents have an advantage over mults on vapes

Local shops and convenience stores have an advantage over the supermarkets. Multiples have big queues outside their doors whereas customers are able to walk straight into their local shops. We are definitely seeing more starter kits so although customers know they can also get their vape products online, those that want products from the bigger brands are coming to us.