January 11, 2021
As the year begins, stores can play a key role in helping their shoppers make the transition to something better. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski reports
As Britain turns its back on 2020 and looks towards what should be – fingers and toes crossed – a better 2021, it’s expected that more smokers are going to try to make this the year they say goodbye to cigarettes for good.
For most major vape brands, peeling smokers away from traditional tobacco to something less harmful is a key aim. As John Patterson, sales director at Juul Labs says: “the vaping category exist to help end the era of combustible cigarettes. As a company, we believe smokers should first and foremost quit. And those who have not successfully quit should completely switch to potentially less harmful alternative nicotine products.”
To help encourage smokers to switch to JUUL, the firm has launched a £19.99 pricemarked version of its starter kit, representing a saving to consumers of £10 on the original RRP.
With millions of pounds invested in developing products that help consumers transition away from cigarettes it’s unsurprising that the industry feels confident about its ability to transition smokers away from cigarettes. The tradition for Brits to make New Year’s Resolutions provides a perfect opportunity to help them do it.
A record year for quitting would fit a trend beginning last year, according to John Taylor, chief marketing officer at vape brand Dinner Lady: “We’ve seen research from ASH that the early months of COVID-19 saw more than one million people in the UK stop smoking, and that there was an increase of 22 percent in quit attempts during 2020. Quitting success increased from 14 percent to 23 percent, the highest it’s been since at least 2007, according to UCL.
“Based on those figures, and with concerns around the coronavirus pandemic continuing, we believe there will certainly be more smokers than ever attempting to quit for their New Year’s resolutions in 2021.”
Further evidence of importance of this effort were highlighted earlier this month when the American Heart Association published research that shows vapers must switch completely to e-cigarettes or equivalent in order to see the positive health impacts associated with transitioning away from tobacco.
January is one of three major periods for quitting throughout the year and suppliers have shown themselves ready to support efforts that help push down smoking rates. In autumn, for example, nextgen360 – the company behind the EDGE vape brand – once again encouraged retailers to engage with the Public Health England-backed Stoptober campaign.
The company’s sales director Chris Carr says: “Stoptober 2020 predictably saw a significant rise in average order volumes as retailers bolster their stock offerings to ensure maximum conversion of increased search traffic and footfall as consumers enact their plans for quitting smoking at the behest of the campaign.”
Carr says his team works closely with stores to capitalise on any opportunity that exists to help smokers make the transition to vape. “Our reps have been actively supporting retailers in their efforts with a drive towards range increase and expansion of their range, introducing diverse and eye-catching PoS, including educational material aiming to inform consumers of their options while ensuring retail staff maintain a suitable knowledgebase to foster conversion and maximise revenue.”
Moving smokers on to next generation products is increasingly a priority even for tobacco companies who are restructuring their businesses for a future where fewer people smoke.
Fredrik Svensson, general manager at BAT says: “At BAT our purpose is to build a better tomorrow by reducing the health impact of our business through offering a greater choice of enjoyable and less risky products for our consumers. While vaping is not risk free, according to nearly all major public health bodies in the UK, including Public Health England, vaping is around 95 percent less harmful than smoking. Therefore, any decline in vaping caused by adult nicotine consumers returning to smoking is deeply concerning.”
Of course, quitting smoking presents a challenge for every smoker so how can stores both inspire and support customers on this journey? According to John Patterson a major first step is increasing the visibility of the vape and next generation product category instore:
“The easiest things that retailers can do is to signpost the category, maintain visibility and availability of the leading products in each sub-category,” he says. “Keeping alternatives front of mind could act as a reminder – and encouragement – for smokers to stay tobacco free. It’s about providing a range of potential alternatives.”
Most major vape brands offer a range of PoS and other display materials for stores but Patterson’s recommendation that stores stock a range of alternatives underlines how broad this category has become. Stocking a single brand, or even a couple, is no longer an option as consumers expect convenience stores, vape shops and even pharmacies to have the right product to help them transition away from tobacco.
Vape brand Dinner Lady is one firm that has adapted its model to this new reality. “We are constantly reviewing the products we offer to ensure we meet the needs of people who want to quit smoking,” says John Taylor. “We took research from our original disposable Pod Device to tailor the new Vape Pen to even better meet the needs of adult smokers who want to quit.”
The company says its disposable vape pen range offers the equivalent of 20 cigarettes’ worth of usage for £4.99 – far below the RRP of even the lowest price packet of cigarettes.
At a time when non-essential stores are once more shuttered across the UK, companies such as Dinner Lady are also taking advantage of the power of the internet to promote their products as quitting aids. “Our website features a calculator to show smokers how much they could save by switching to vape and we have full guides to vaping, e-liquids and hardware all online to support people in making the right product choices,” Taylor adds.
With a range of support and tools available, the challenge is over to you. Will you be there to help your shoppers quit in 2021?
How to help your customers kick the habit for good
Broaden your range of options
Every smoker is different and will be looking for different things from a vape or next generation product. Help them to find the right quitting aid for them.
Stock starter kits and run promotions
While vaping is cheaper than smoking the initial outlay can be prohibitive. Stocking starter kits or running introductory deals is vital in helping smokers make that first step.
Focus on display
A great display can help new shoppers navigate your range more easily, while counter top displays and shopfloor units can also help demystify the category.
Many independent businesses take huge pride in their customer service. Use this skill and ensure you and your team are offering advice to those trying to quit.
Make sure your range is up to date
Suppliers are investing millions of pounds in developing new, more effective, products to help smokers to transition to something better. Make sure your range keeps up.