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Bouncing back: A retailer’s perspective

August 16, 2021


Shahid Ahmed, who runs Day Today Stane in the Scottish Town of Shotts, was perfectly placed to capitalise on lockdown. He tells Vape Business why his business is coming back even stronger

Lockdown was really helpful for us and really helped kick start our sales.

With vape shops closed, customers went out of their way to look for stores where they could get their brand or product.

A lot of customers will need help or they will want ‘the good stuff’ – specialist products and a broad range – and we find that having the knowledge and the range they need means we have built a reputation in our community.

It really helped when we were the only store in the area with such a strong range and customers would say to each other “go and see this store” to get the product they wanted.

Another store simply wouldn’t be able to sell what we’ve got – even with the same range in the same location. I see a lot of retailers who are able to make the investment and get the kit in but don’t have the knowledge and the passion and 18 months later they end up dismantling it all.

This isn’t an “off the shelf” category in as much as the products won’t just automatically sell with no effort on a retailer’s part.

In contrast, I think we will end up keeping a lot of the trade we added while vape shops were closed because we win on price, product knowledge and convenience.

One innovation that’s really helped us grow sales has been the arrival of nic salts on the market. They obviously offer a stronger more cigarette-like ‘hit’ for users and what we’ve found is that they have given another ‘excuse’ to shoppers who might have tried the old-style vape pens and found the devices difficult to fill and not satisfying enough.

Customers also want simplicity wherever possible and that has lead to a real revival of disposable devices that can be bought and used immediately.

For us, there’s two flavour options retailers really need to focus on. Menthol is, hands down, the biggest seller for us but then you really need to have a nice fruity flavour available too. I find that new vapers either want menthol, and that really works for them, or they will come in, ask for tobacco flavours, and then end up moving across to a fruit flavour after a while.

I do think stores need to be careful about the range they stock. A lot of brands offer 50-odd flavours but what I’ve found is that in a range that large there will be a few that really hit the mark and then quite a lot that aren’t the same standard. The problem with that is that a vaper will buy one of those e-liquids or capsules that isn’t at the same standard and their opinion is that the whole system or range isn’t worth trying.

Vype, now Vuse, has a limited range of seven flavours, What’s great is that they’ve made sure that every one of those flavours really hits the spot. That really builds trust among customers.

Nicotine pouches have also been a success for us but they’ve really attracted an older customer base in my store. It’s a market that’s extremely stubborn with people who simply can’t get their head around e-cigarettes but have tried nicotine patches before and see pouches as more like this.

The one thing I would say about supplier support is that, right now, I don’t think any firm has got it exactly right. A lot of sales teams will come in just trying to off load their stock but I don’t always get the sense that they think what’s good for my business is, in the long term, good for theirs.