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Editorial: the ups and downs of vape shopping

March 6, 2020

A sign that states "must be over 21" hangs in the store window of a vape shop on December 19, 2019 in New York City. Congress raised the legal age to smoke or vape to 21. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

I went on a bit of an investigation into vape retailing last week – partly on purpose and partly because I kept losing or forgetting my device.

The experience showed me just how much this category relies on good retailing.

First came the young guy in the Sainsbury’s Local near our office. He gets a ten out of ten for me because I didn’t know what I wanted and wasn’t sure what they had (my rubbish eyesight is kryptonite in these situations).

However this guy took it all in his stride, talked me through the different systems. the flavours available in each starter kit and which one had the best price.

That was Friday and come Saturday I realised that I had left that one in the office so quickly went into a Tesco in London Bridge to repeat the purchase. This time the person serving me didn’t know, nor seem to care, about the category at all. The service was so bad that I decided not to buy anything from them and find the nearest independent retailer instead.

Eventually I found a Costcutter but the guy – friendly enough – just stood back when I asked about vape and pointed to a display on his counter.

“All our stuff is there mate,” he said. “Take a look”.

Cue a search. There were pods but no devices, devices with no pods. Eventually, after five minutes, I decided to give up and leave. It was only because I needed nicotine and didn’t want my Saturday fully taken up with vape shopping that I turned around, bought a new – different – system and walked away.

So what did I learn? Firstly, good service really helps and knowledge and patience are vital. Secondly, as with tobacco brands, vape shoppers really will spend a weirdly long time hunting around stores looking for the right one – so you can’t take us for granted.