August 16, 2021
From the moment a customer arrives in store, retailers can be showcasing their vape and next generation nicotine range. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski speaks to the experts to learn more
It’s a competitive world out there in the world of vape and next generation nicotine product retailing and one of the most important tools store owners have to ensure their business secures its chunk of this important sales opportunity is by having a great display.
“Adult smokers – and existing adult vapers – have multiple channels in which to shop for vaping products,” says John Patterson, sales director at Juul: “It is vital that in order to get their fair share of the category and its growth, retailers have a professional, well-managed display to gain and retain customers.”
Fortunately, much of the best practice mirrors – at least in theory – that of tobacco, a category most retailers have decades of experience in.
“Adult smokers generally buy the same brand of cigarettes using the same store to purchase their tobacco, Patterson says: “Displays which are clean, well merchandised and provide a range of alternatives to cigarettes will have greater appeal for a smoker looking to switch away from cigarettes and may increase the likelihood that they will continue to purchase from your store.”
Yet there are differences and the tobacco alternatives market is one where trends and innovation can make it hard to keep up.
This week, Vape Business takes a look at some of the threats, challenges, opportunities and innovations that can exist when trying to build the right display for your store.
The impact of Covid-19
Display is an issue that has become even more important in the 18 months since the coronavirus pandemic took hold, according to Duncan Cunningham, corporate affairs director at Blu brand owner Imperial:
“Display has a particularly crucial role to play at present, given the in-store restrictions in place as part of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many consumers won’t wish to handle products in order to look at them before they buy and may also be inclined not to ask questions at the till point to avoid queues building up behind them, which can be intimidating. With this in mind, ensuring vaping products are displayed clearly and prominently in store is of key importance.”
One innovation in display – rolled out at the beginning of 2020 – now appears particularly prescient. Aquavape’s automated ‘kiosk’ display allows customers to get advice and explore a store’s range in their own time and away from the counter – perfect for social distancing.
“The screen and the category information it holds is designed to help customers understand their vaping requirements and guides them to solutions based upon the information they input,” says, director at AQL International Ltd, the firm behind Aquavape. It also provides full product information, training videos, as well as full explanations of compatibility of liquids, devices, coils and tanks.”
Tailoring your display
Of course, no two stores are alike and there will not be a display solution that suits all businesses.
Like other a number of other major brands, Imperial has invested in a range of display options to suit every business.
“It really depends on the size of the store, product range and space available,” says Duncan Cunningham. “But whichever display solution is in place, we would recommend grouping the respective products and brands together in a well-organised display. As well as creating further shelf-appeal for products, this will make it easier for staff to locate products for quick service and maintain stock levels.”
So, how can stores still ensure their range gives the impact to incoming consumers that it deserves?
“Where space is limited, even a small countertop unit can help achieve this, especially if it is well organised and fully stocked. Making sure it is positioned in a well-lit part of the counter will also help increase visibility of products even further. Whatever display option is used, shoppers are often drawn to products displayed at eye-line so to help attract their attention, we’d recommend placing devices at this level,” Cunningham adds.
Ebrahim Kathrada says stores must have the confidence to understand what their market is – as well as what it isn’t. The right display can then be built with this insight in mind:
“You can’t service everyone, but you can try to service the majority,” he says: “No matter how big the display, the structure, look and ease-to-shop is the most important factor in ensuring maximum sales. Having a range of products displayed in an easy and concise manner is imperative to make it a success. And if you want to go all out than I think a 2m display is sufficient for most.”
Maintaining the right range
One area of category management which is deeply linked to creating a great display is crafting the right range to showcase to consumers in the first place. It is something that suppliers recognise as being a significant challenge for stores.
“With trends in the market continually changing and a wide choice on offer within the vaping and next-generation market, it can often be confusing for both the retailer, in terms of what to stock, and also for the customer when choosing a product,” says Gemma Bateson, head of reduced risk products at JTI.
Still, a number of key brands are emerging and Bateson says stores should build a range (and display) that ensures vapers and next generation nicotine consumers can access their preferred product:
“Where possible, retailers should stock a full, consolidated range and maintain a good availability of products. This way, retailers and their staff can provide a successful vaping offering and service to their customers. It is also important to recognise which products are proving particularly popular with customers so that retailers can meet this demand and customers can get their preferred product without having to shop around. For retailers who are new to the category but looking to provide options, it is best to start with stocking products that are known as ‘best-sellers’, before growing the range.”
That said, in a market where many firms are looking to muscle in, stores can go too far the other way.
“It is important to stock known and trusted brands rather than over-range on lots of different products, which will only increase stock-holding and confusion for the customer,” says John Patterson, sales director at Juul.
Getting an e-liquid display right
The e-liquid market, meanwhile, has continued to play a vital role in the vape market that has otherwise changed dramatically in recent years. For a sector that is built on the idea that consumers have a broad range of choices available to them creating a display that is easy for both staff and customers to navigate is paramount.
“Aquavape was at the forefront of structuring the convenience vape market into a format which you see today,” says Ebrahim Kathrada.
“We pioneered the colour coding system on e-liquid bottles, so the consumer and retailer alike find it easier to distinguish between the different strengths of nicotine. Red for 18mg, Blue for 12mg, Yellow for 6mg and so forth. We were the first to develop acrylic counter top display units with pull out draws when our competitors had inadequate carboard stands, the first to have the Series 1-4 range to help the consumer understand that a starter kit is organised as ‘1’ and that an advanced kit is ‘4’.
Simplicity is clearly important to encourage a wider range of consumers to engage with the vape and next generation category. Duncan Cunningham says that many stores can learn from the approach of vape specialists in this regard:
“Many specialist vape stores have invested significantly in their store interiors to ensure they offer maximum consumer appeal. While these stores include an extensive range of products, they are often carefully displayed to promote a minimalist look, featuring sleek arrangements of products. These attractive interiors and displays help draw consumers in from the high street and drive footfall into the stores. Therefore, any independent retailers looking to compete and truly position themselves as a destination store for vapers, especially when there is a specialist store nearby, should consider investing in their displays and range to offer a similar shopping experience for their customers.”
While having a broad range visible to shoppers can take investment, Ebrahim Kathrada says the e-liquid market isn’t the profit draining black hole that some stores fear.
“The truth is the risks are quite minimal in comparison to other categories the retailer may invest in. With an average of 50 percent margin there’s not much in the store that would give the retailer that kind of return.”
And, when it comes to investment in display, quite often there simply isn’t any, Kathrada adds:
“In most cases the furniture, merchandising and PoS is all provided so the retailer only pays for the stock at wholesale value. If a retailer looks at their store as a square footage and works out what categories are giving them a good return on investment, they may find that space can be created for something more profitable like a vape display. Time after time we have reignited dead space into a profit-making area and freshened the look of the store adding incremental sales, increasing basket spend and pulling in new customers.”
Staying up to date
One of the challenges of developing a successful in-store strategy is that, even if a store gets the right range and PoS in place for their location it is also certain to change over time. Ebrahim Kathrada says this requires working with businesses you can trust:
“Retailers need to work with reputable suppliers that are here for the long-haul and not for short wins. The vaping market is ever evolving and products that trend today may not do as well tomorrow. It is imperative therefore to work with a supplier that is going to work with you in ensuring that your vape category is always up-to-date.”
While display is key to this so is the range that is available to customers and Kathrada says that – for the e-liquids market especially – the two are inextricably linked: “The last thing that a retailer wants to see is a shelf of dusty stock. This has no benefit to the retailer, supplier or consumer. With space at a premium, it is essential that fast-moving products are displayed. A regular range review may involve uplifting slow-moving lines and replacing with new ones keeping the consumer engaged, retailer happy and ensures maximum sales opportunity.”
Encouraging smokers to transition
Of course, whether it’s vape, pouches or heated tobacco, the ‘mission’ of many products is to encourage more current smokers to kick the habit for good. According to John Patterson at Juul, getting a store’s display right is an important part of the helping smokers make the leap:
“The simplest things that retailers can do is to signpost the category, maintain visibility and ensure availability of the leading products in each sub-category. Keeping these front-of-mind could help inform adult smokers about potentially less harmful alternatives and encourage them to transition away from cigarettes.”
What does this mean in practice? Patterson says there’s some simple rules that can ensure smokers who are new to the category find it easy to navigate.
“Use well-known brands to signpost the alternatives open to the adult smoker and use manufacturers’ point of sale to convey the transitioning opportunity. Closed pod refills and e-liquids tend to work best in convenience, given they are pre-mixed and simple to use, and should form the majority of space on the fixture, with at most 20 percent given to hardware.”
Over in the e-liquids market, Kathrada says Aquavape have worked hard to demystify a sector that has sometimes felt like it might be for ‘specialists’ only.
“We were the first to replace the market wide technical jargon into more user-friendly ones like “Tank” instead of Clearomiser or Atomiser,” he says, adding: “As the vaping market grows and more people convert from regular cigarettes onto vaping some people require assistance and guidance.”
It is clear that brands see getting display right as a vital part of any strategy for success.
“Being at the forefront of our game has instilled confidence in our clients that we are continually evolving with our market and always thinking and developing the next best solution whether that’s product, display and visual merchandising,” says Ebrahim Kathrada.
The question is, will your display put your store in a similarly strong position?