July 13, 2020
Vape sales present a great way of boosting sales and profits and, as Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski discovers, there are some easy ways to take the category to the next level
Opportunity 1: Getting the till point right
Even with in-store social distancing, a retailer’s counter is one of the most important areas of a convenience store and key to communicating the range and value of a category such as vaping. Getting the right display in place is therefore vital.
“The till point is the most frequented and visible site in independents – after all, shoppers have to go there to pay,” says John Patterson, sales director of JUUL Labs in the UK. “If we want to transition smokers into next-gen products, we have to help retailers signpost the category and provide them with the right display solution for their store.”
Like other firms, JUUL has therefore focused on creating point of sale for the till point alongside display units for gantries, countertops, back bars and shop floor FSDUs alongside posters, tent-cards, wobblers and window stickers which carry the Challenge 25 message.
What you can do: Make sure that the brands you have available are clearly visible. In an era of longer queues and social distancing, customers will want to know that they can pick up their brand in your store.
Opportunity 2: Continue to focus on menthol smokers
Time has moved strangely during the lockdown so it is difficult to believe that the menthol ban came into force nearly two months ago. Yet, suppliers are urging retailers not to consider the matter now closed. Almost a quarter of smokers were left ‘homeless’ by the ban and many will still be looking for the right replacement option.
“It’s important that retailers can accommodate adult smokers looking for alternatives, especially those who see the ban as an opportunity to make the switch to vaping,” says Fredrik Svensson, general manager at BAT.
Vype, Juul and PMI all launched menthol ban starter kits in the run up to the ban with new menthol flavours also appearing across the major brands. “Alternatives” doesn’t mean solely vaping any more and stocking other options such as Nordic Spirit pouches will provide the opportunity to attract the most customers possible.
What you can do: Create a menthol alternatives display and encourage former menthol smokers on to this higher-margin reduced-risk category that will help save them money too.
Opportunity 3: Utilise your own sales data to build range
Suppliers agree that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to building a successful vape range. According to Blu, the most effective strategy is to start broad and narrow in on what sells.
Duncan Cunningham, corporate affairs director at Blu and Imperial says: “We’d recommend stocking as broad a range as space allows and then fine tuning this in the weeks and months that follow, according to customer feedback and sales.”
It is the ‘agility’ that independent retailers are able to show in terms of what to stock which will be the biggest advantage, allowing stores to adapt their range at short notice, Cunningham adds. “The retailers who can remain agile, will be in the best position to cater for their customers and grow their nicotine sales as a result.”
According to Imperial, a broad range needs to include a strong portfolio of e-liquids, especially fruit flavours, a variety of nicotine strengths, plus nicsalts.
What you can do: Make five minutes each week to look at the key SKUs in your vape range. If they are underperforming it might be time to try something new.
Opportunity 4: Personalise your sales approach
“The vaping market includes a wide range of customers – from existing adult smokers trying vaping for the first time to more experienced vapers looking to experiment with new devices and flavours,” says Nick Geens, head of Logic and reduced risk products at JTI. For this reason, the supplier recommends staff and store owners adapt their sales approach depending on the customer they face. “With the spectrum of vapers out there, it is also crucial to offer as much choice as possible to become a true vaping destination.”
A specific example Geens gives of this is the surge in former menthol cigarette smokers who are approaching the vape market for the first time. He says: “Retailers should educate themselves on starter kits and popular devices for beginners including Logic Compact, a pod-mod device that makes it easy for vapers to switch between flavours and nicotine strengths when finding the right fit.”
What you can do: Ensure that both you and your team know every product and flavour you stock. It sounds ambitious but most staff will remember the tobacco brands you have available.
Opportunity 5: Focus on nic-salts
It has never been easier to offer a compelling range of nic-salts-based liquids and capsules as nearly every vape brand out there has brought to market its own offer in recent years.
Nic-salts have become popular because they offer a stronger and more cigarette-like ‘hit’ to former smokers who want to make the transition to a less harmful option. “Offering a smoother and more intense flavour delivery, nicotine salts present a significant profit opportunity for retailers whose customers seek a more enriched vaping experience,” says Nick Geens. For Logic this brought about the arrival of both Logic Compact Intense – a set of flavour pods which are compatible with the firm’s Compact device – and also EPIQ, a brand of e-liquids which use nic-salts to “enhance” the vape experience.
What you can do: Research what nic-salt products are available from your bestselling brands and be ready to tell your shoppers why these products are worth trying out.
Opportunity 6: Build credibility
Having the trust of your customers is vital for the success of any store but in the vape industry it can create a point of difference between your business and a less professional local vape store.
Some of the elements needed to build trust come by following regulations and working with suppliers. “By law, authorised vape suppliers are required to submit full details of ingredients used to ensure they are compliant. Retailers are recommended to use reputable brands to ensure that all products they sell are authorised and compliant,” says Ebrahim Kathrada, director of Aquavape.
Ensuring staff adhere as strictly to Challenge 25 rules for vape as they do for tobacco is another way to secure trust.
What you can do: Ask reps and suppliers what they do to ensure their products are as safe as possible. Be ready to explain the current vape regulations – and how you adhere to them – to your customers.