Suppliers have announced plans to educate retailers on the e-cigarette category, following repeated calls for help from shopkeepers.

Speaking exclusively to Retail Newsagent last Friday, Andrew Miller, head of field sales at Imperial Tobacco, said the manufacturer would make vaping sales a focus over the next 12 months, following a recent stint working with Blu in independent retail.

Mr Miller said retailers don’t know enough to educate their customers, but neither do kiosk staff in supermarkets, creating an opportunity for local stores who become knowledgeable on the category.

Communicating with customers is vital for the independent retail channel to remain competitive, he added.

“Some consumers want to buy e-vapers and they go into an independent retailer who might have three, four or five varieties.

“But retailers don’t know enough about each one to educate their consumers. It’s the same in multiples,” he said.

“We’ll be giving retailers information, hints and tips about the right products and the right categories. It’s about giving them the tools they need to sell products to consumers.”

JTI has also produced an e-cigarette category guide which is already being distributed among retailers.

The news comes as retailers raised fresh concerns about the continued lack of information available to them about the vaping market during the IGD Wholesaling 2016 Summit on Wednesday last week.

Linda Sood, owner of Falcon Convenience Store in Portsmouth, said: “We buy these products not knowing what we’re selling, we pick them up because it’s something customers want, but there’s not enough training.” She also highlighted the perception that supermarkets are cheaper, which independent retailers have to fight to change.

Christine Southern, of Southern Newsagents in Maidstone, Kent, said she had noticed a decline in reps.

“I know you can look for information, but that’s not the same as somebody talking to you about a new product and explaining it,” she said.

Retailers who attended a roundtable with RN and Blu in April also asked for advice on category bestsellers and upcoming legislation.