September 7, 2020
It can be the most important element of vape category management, so what is the secret to a great looking display? Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski asks around
“If you don’t display vape products in the right way, you’re not going to sell anything,” says Bay Bashir, owner of the Bell Vue Go Local convenience store in Middlesbrough.
Bashir is one of thousands of retailers profiting from the vape category and one of the secrets to his success is showcasing his range clearly and attractively to customers.
From touchscreen display units to integrated vape-tobacco gantry units and secondary vape units away from the till, there are many options available to retailers and, for retailers like Bay Bashir, choosing the right options can mean the difference between big profits and zero sales.
This week, Vape Business takes a look at best practice advice on display for independent retailers.
A great display gets you lockdown-ready
According to wholesaler JW Filshill, display has been a vital element for stores capitalising on the opportunity created by lockdown. “With the closure of vape shops, and fewer multiple shopping trips during the Covid lockdown, convenience stores saw solid growth in the vaping category,” Derek Cowan, category manager for Tobacco, Vape and Impulse at the wholesaler. “Retailers who had the right range and proper display showed the most growth during this period. One of our multiple retailers grew his category over 40 percent during lockdown.
This insight is backed up by suppliers. Duncan Cunningham, corporate affairs director at Imperial Tobacco, says display has a crucial role to play: “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. It’s important for retailers to have a strong visual display of vaping products, positioned away from the main gantry where possible, with clear information on pricing to enable customers to browse at their leisure without the need to handle and inspect products.”
Utilise your cigarette gantry
“We stock our menthol products next to the gantry which works best for me,” says Bay Bashir. Interestingly, he doesn’t think the customer behaviour of vapers tightly matches that of smokers, however. “I don’t think vape is as much a distress purchase as tobacco because people plan what they are going to need. That’s why if you don’t have the right product in, they will go elsewhere.”
Bashir’s approach mirrors the advice of wholesaler JW Filshill. “I believe a display behind the counter, where the cigarette gantry used to be situated, is key,” says Derek Cowan. “A proper well-lit and planogrammed display will show the consumer the range you have available. Unlike conventional tobacco, PoS for vaping is still permissible therefore stores should take advantage of any brands poster, shelf edge tickets and other items.”
Nick Geens, head of reduced-risk products and Logic at JTI agrees: “With a wide range of tobacco alternatives and new products now available to vapers, customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to devices and flavours. However, research has shown that almost a third of existing adult smokers choose to buy elsewhere if their brand is unavailable, which is why displays are so important for retailers to show what’s on offer.”
Geens is, however, keen to emphasise that vape doesn’t have to be kept behind a store’s counter. “Unlike tobacco, vaping products can be displayed anywhere in store, which can help the category stand out and allow customers to browse what’s on offer,” he says.
Geens adds: “Retailers are beginning to invest in shop-floor display units to showcase their vape range, and initiatives such as dynamic displays, eye-catching PoS and countertop display units will help drive visibility. This can help drive repeat custom as shoppers won’t feel rushed at the counter and it helps them expand their knowledge of the different products available in your store.
A great example of supplier innovation when it comes to display, meanwhile, is Aquavape’s touchscreen sales unit.
“The “Silent Salesman” as we like to call it, helps guide customers easily through a range of products where they can obtain useful information and then make a product selection simply,” says Ebrahim Kathrada, director at Aquavape. “Key benefits of this concept include reduced queues at the till, handling technical ‘know how’ through ‘how to’ videos and a simplified sales process.”
Organising your display
As every store owner knows, the difference between success and failure in convenience can often be found in the smallest details. Duncan Cunningham advises stores to identify bestsellers and then position them at eye-level to get shoppers’ attention. “We’d recommend placing devices at this level, and then the supporting brand e-liquids or accessories on the shelves above and below. Low-margin products, or cheaper brands, should be placed on the lower shelf, with higher margin products above the devices,” he says, adding that grouping by brands can also add clarity and help both shoppers and staff to navigate the display.
Nick Geens at JTI, meanwhile, says this sort of well-organised approach is even more vital in the context of social distancing and COVID-19: “As a result of the current pandemic and social distancing guidelines, many people want to get in and out of stores quickly and that means they’re often spending less time browsing in-store. Therefore, having a clear, tidy and well-stocked display is crucial for retailers to showcase their range and capitalise on sales opportunities.”
“Wholesalers and convenience stores must take a responsible approach to selling vape products,” says Derek Cowan at JW Filshill. He warns that failure to maintain high responsible retailing standards could affect the viability for the whole category: “In the US, products and flavours were banned in some states as, allegedly, too many young people were getting into the vaping category. Challenge 25 communication should be prevalent on the display.”
“Retailers are key members of the community and have a duty to their customers to operate in a responsible manner,” says Nick Geens. “While vaping products can be displayed anywhere in store, it is illegal in England, Scotland and Wales to sell vaping products to anyone under the age of 18. There are some minor differences between the UK countries, for example retailers in Scotland must register on the Nicotine Vapour Products Register.”
Stores which fail to trade within these restrictions can be fined up to £2,500.