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Vape Business visits the first super charged IQOS city

March 9, 2020

One of Bristol's four IQOS stores in Bristol

In this small city, a major drive to raise availability and brand awareness is showing just what an effect the heat-not-burn market could have in the UK.

“We’ve really increased the availability of Heets and we also increased our commercial activities,” says Anil Ozveren, city activation manager at IQOS brand owner Philip Morris. “For example, in London – where there are eight million people – we have six IQOS direct stores. Here – in a city of half a million – we have four. We also have over 90% IQOS availability in convenience”.

Lexie’s is one of 16 official Iqos resellers in Bristol

Ozveren says the investment being made in Bristol will show how the rest of the UK can benefit from heat-not-burn products. “For us ‘super charged’ means we follow wherever the smokers are,” he says.

A major part of this experiment has been the creation of 16 “official reseller” stores – independent convenience stores which are able to sell devices as well as Heets.

Ozveren takes Vape Business to two such stores. First up, on the busy Park St, is Lexies, owned by Gagandeep Sharma.

“In September we approached these guys to have a different commercial partnership with them,” says Ozveren. “They are now one of the first official IQOS resellers – this means that they can officially sell the device itself, giving shoppers visibility of the device in store and allowing stores to inform their smokers about how the devices work.”

The business has a display showcasing the different kinds of devices and, outside, IQOS has provided the business with a new sign denoting the business’s “official reseller” status. There is also a designated area of the store where IQOS reps can talk customers through the system.

“We also have some IQOS expert activity in-store, giving information about IQOS and doing some product trials as well,” says Ozveren.

These stores are now dotted around Bristol – alongside and apparently not in competition with the official IQOS stores. It means IQOS is as accessible to smokers as bestselling cigarette brands.

The second store we visit is Clifton Off License in a leafy suburb of the city. The business is run by Imran Khan who has seen his customers quit smoking thanks to IQOS, making him a passionate advocate.

“We now sell four to five outers of Heets per week,” says Khan. He says the training around the system has been simple and both he and his wife are able to talk shoppers through IQOS with confidence.

Imran Khan at Clifton Off Licence says he now has many regular customers coming in for Heets

And the supplier is helping more smokers to transfer by providing a trial pack that retailers like Imran and Gagandeep can sign shoppers up for.

Anil Ozveren explains: “With the trial pack there’s four HEETs packs and an IQOS device. You subscribe for £10 for two weeks and after the trial, if you would like the device, you are charged for the rest of the cost. If you don’t like it, you can return it for free.”

It’s clear from visiting these businesses just how serious Philip Morris is about making its IQOS system mainstream and, if Bristol is an image of the future, then these ambitions are huge.

“We believe smokers have the right to know about the alternatives,” Ozveren says. “Once we believe we’ve got the right model of course we will expand it to the rest of the UK too.”


My introduction to IQOS by Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski

“The first thing to say is that the best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking,” the salesman, Mark, says as I sit down in Bristol’s clean and shiny IQOS store.

Trying the system out in one of the city’s IQOS-friendly restaurants

I’m about to try IQOS out and I feel a mixture of trepidation in trying a heat-not-burn system myself and awe at how futuristic the surroundings are. If you’ve ever had your ears pierced in an Apple Store you’ll know how I feel.

The IQOS devices aren’t cheap and the most modern – IQOS 3 Duo – costs £89.99 for a starter kit. So before I begin, Mark gives me a run down on how to look after your device and some do’s and don’ts. It turns out IQOS devices can get pretty clogged up if you don’t regularly clean the bit where the tobacco sticks are positioned. That image is enough to remind me why I want to end my decade-long love affair with roll-ups.

Now that I am fully briefed, it’s time to try IQOS myself and I breath in just like I have done cigarettes for years. The hit on my throat – so comforting – is there like every cigarette I’ve smoked before but, and it’s hard to fully explain this, I just don’t feel like I’m being poisoned.

That’s not to say it is harmless – IQOS doesn’t claim to be healthy or risk-free (thus Mark’s warning at the start) – but here is something that feels like it might just satisfy that craving when I’m at the pub and the cigarettes come out. But without the tar.

I’ve been off cigarettes for three weeks now and that’s thanks to a range of devices (and my will power, of course). I’m pretty certain that IQOS will help me keep on the straight and narrow, though – and I can imagine many more will find it an essential tool as they try to give up smoking too.


You can find out more about stocking IQOS products and preparing for the menthol ban here.