With a 75% share of the vaping market, challenger brands are providing your store with the range and support needed to help you make the most of one of the convenience market’s biggest trends.

Nearly two thirds of retailers in an RN survey saw, on average, 60% of their vaping and e-cigarette sales come from specialist brands such as Edge, Smok and Liberty Flights. Despite JTI, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and British American Tobacco (BAT) having just 40% of the market between them, including Logic, Blu, Vype and Iqos, major tobacco suppliers are investing to help retailers.

vaping-stat-.jpgBlu UK’s head of next-generation product sales, Andrew Miller, says: “Blu is determined to ensure that independent retailers are fully up to speed with this category. In a crowded marketplace filled with different brands, systems and flavours, many consumers looking to switch to vaping are understandably confused, and look to their local retailers for buying advice. 

“To equip retailers with the skillsets they require, Blu engages with them on a regular basis via its salesforce. We’ve also produced a number of category guides, including information on key trends plus merchandising tips.”

RN’s survey results were consistent, regardless of store location, symbol group or store type. Purvesh Patel, of the Wine Mill in London, says: “Only 20% of my vaping and e-cigarette sales come from the tobacco suppliers. Sales are poor because of the lack of support.

“Specialists, such as Smok and Juiced, are always on the phone – they visit the store every few weeks to provide training. We’re more knowledgeable when selling their products and the service is better than what the major tobacco brands provide.”

According to the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), there are three million vape users in the UK and the convenience sector contributes more than a quarter of the £725m market. Major tobacco suppliers, however, only represent 25% of the convenience market. 

Manufacturing and compliance director at Vaporised, Doug Mutter, who also sits on the UKVIA board, says the major vaping suppliers have not adapted themselves to the market properly, which is predominantly made up of enthusiasts.

“The bulk of the market is more specialist orientated. While the tobacco companies bring knowledge to customers, alongside a lot of innovation and funding to the sector, they don’t offer the same range as the rest of the market,” he says.

“The majority of customers in the vaping market are those who want kits and add-ons, but the major suppliers only offer basic starter products. They only offer products for new vapers.”

One example is Iqos, a heat-not-burn system by PMI that the company says is part of a £1bn investment. The device costs £79 and claims to be less harmful than cigarettes. A pack of 20 sticks costs a little less than a 20-pack of cigarettes.

Since its launch in 2017, the company has aimed to recruit 8,000 UK retailers to sell the system. While supermarkets can sell the device outright, convenience stores must set up sales appointments for the customer to meet with a PMI rep. The RN survey shows that the average store has sold less than five devices since the scheme began.

vaping-stat-2.jpgBay Bashir, of Go Local Extra in Middlesbrough, explains: “Sales haven’t been that great. We haven’t been provided with support and we’re not going to proactively promote a product if we can’t sell it. We’ve had no retention for the Heets either.”

Specialist supplier Juul has recently expanded from the US into the UK market for the first time with a product similar to Iqos, and JTI’s Logic system. Tomas Zalatoris, CEO of online vaping wholesaler Clouder, says his retail customers in London have seen their sales double since stocking the product. 

“Despite not having the advantage of being an early entrant, Juul appeals to the premium market and works straight out of the box. There’s already been a lot of hype around it in the US, which has helped it build a reputation with enthusiasts around the world,” he explains. 

“Near-identical brands, such as Iqos and Logic, just haven’t had the time to build the hype like Juul has.”

How to make the most of the vaping category