Five retailers and Blu joined RN earlier this year to discuss how retailers can drive their profits with the latest vaping trends

Market overview 

The vaping category is predicted to be worth £2.5bn by 2025, and with 35% of consumers switching between vaping and traditional tobacco, it’s a market that independent retailers can tap into to drive their profits.

Andrew Miller, head of next-generation products at Blu, says 52% of consumers initially start buying vaping products in traditional retail, like supermarkets and convenience stores, and then branch out to other outlets, while 80% of those vaping are looking to quit smoking altogether. 

He adds that more shoppers now seek sleeker devices when in the office and running everyday errands, but larger tanks when heading out in the evening – so having a range that meets multiple needs is essential.

Alex Sykes, the company’s next-generation product executive, explains that nine times out of 10, a new vaping consumer will ask a retailer for a recommendation on what to buy, so retailers must be clued up on the different devices, strengths and flavours out there, if they are to successfully secure a sale. 

Where is the opportunity? 

Miller says the menthol ban, which will come into force in May 2020, is a huge opportunity for retailers, as 40% of menthol smokers will look at other categories within tobacco, so retailers must start stocking menthol-flavoured liquids now to capitalise on demand.

E-liquids come in different strengths, and depending on the PG and VG levels, it will give consumers a different experience. The PG level refers to the how intense the vape will feel in consumers’ throats, while the VG indicates how much ‘cloud’ the liquid will produce. 

Sykes explains that alongside e-liquids, retailers should stock one or two mid-range devices, which make up 45% of the market, followed by pod mods, like Myblu, as an entry-level device that commands 35% of the market, plus one or two big tank systems, which make up 25% of the market. 

Retailers can also drive their profits by getting their tobacco customers to switch. Miller explains that 46% of vapers currently consume tobacco as well, but with 40% of smokers still yet to try vaping, the opportunity is massive for independent retailers. 

Transactions in vape stores take, on average, 15 minutes because staff engage with shoppers and ask them questions about what type of vaping experience they are looking for. Miller says independents can learn from this by asking shoppers questions to assess what device is suited to them. 

He adds Blu reps are on hand to help retailers become experts in this category, so urges store owners to work with them. 

This way, they can establish themselves as experts, encouraging repeat purchase for vaping products. 

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What retailers learnt 

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Aman Uppal
One Stop Mount Nod,
Coventry 

I learned a lot more about the category than I thought I would. I can now take this knowledge and pass it onto my customers. It was also helpful to engage in conversation with other retailers from across the country, and now when I get back to my store, the first thing I’m going to do is carry out a full range review.

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Peter Wagg
News on the Wharf,
London

We sell a very small range of vapes and liquids, such as Vype, Logic and Blu, but we would now like to expand that and turn one of the stores into a vaping destination after learning more about the category. I came in at first confused and daunted by the category, and unsure whether my range could match what is out there, but I’ve come to learn that it isn’t as complicated as I initially thought.

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Anita Nye
Premier Eldred Drive
Stores, Orpington,
Kent 

 

I came to speak to other independent retailers and experts to learn more about vaping and how we can help our shoppers find the products they were looking for. I enjoyed the session with Blu and have learned the basics about the market. It’s important to remember that you can’t stock and do everything, but concentrate on a core range and listen to what customers want. 

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 Harrison Clarke
Price Watch,
Sussex

We have 12 forecourts in east and west Sussex, and offer a wide range of vaping options across all the stores. I came today to learn from Blu and other retailers what their successes were, and how I can adapt that into my own operation. One of the things I picked up was that as an industry, we needed to focus more on staff education in order to better help our shoppers. 

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Raj Aggarwal
Spar Hackenthorpe,
Sheffield

I have stores in Leicester and Sheffield, and we stock a few lines, but there is still some confusion as to what the bestsellers are and how much stock we should have. Sometimes you find yourself governed by higher margins as opposed to the bestsellers. The session with Blu was really helpful because I learned that education was at the heart of everything and is something we retailers need to focus on if we are to excel in the category. 

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Vaping glossary

Atomiser – The heater coil that warms the e-liquid and turns it into vapour.

Battery – The power source. This is either activated by pressing a button or inhaling depending on the device.

CBD – Cannabidiol oil is a part of the cannabis plant that does not cause any psychoactive effects. It is credited with being able to relieve a wide range of ailments, but more research is needed to prove its benefits.  

Clearomiser – These contain an atomiser and a cartridge. It has a clear tank and heating coil and can be re-used. 

Closed system – A vaping device that uses closed e-liquid flavour pods that come ready-to-use. Also known as a pod mod.

Coil – E-liquid is turned into vapour with this part of the device, which is a wire that is heated by the battery. 

Disposable – A device that can only be used once.

Mg strength – The amount of nicotine in an e-liquid per millilitre. The legal maximum strength in the UK is 20%. E-liquids can legally be no bigger than 10ml, so anything more than 2ml of nicotine is illegal. 

Mid-device – A device bigger than a slim vaping pen but smaller than a tank system.

Mouthpiece – The part of the device that the user inhales through.

Nic salts – An ingredient in e-liquids that gives a nicotine release similar to a cigarette. These
are more popular among users looking to quit
or cut down. 

Nicotine shot – A flavourless bottle of nicotine that can be added to a short fill. 

NRT – Nicotine replacement therapy. A controlled way of reducing tobacco consumption over time. 

OHM – Measures electrical resistance. The lower the OHM, the faster coils heat up and produce more vapour. 

Open system – A vaping device that enables consumers to mix and pour in their own e-liquids. This is more popular among more experienced users. 

PG Liquid – The higher this number, the bigger the ‘throat hit’. 

Short fill – Large bottles of e-liquid that can be used with open systems. These do not contain nicotine. 

Tank – The part of the device that holds the e-liquid.

VG Liquid – The higher this number, the more ‘cloud’ the liquid will produce.

Blu’s Top Trade Tips

1. RANGE

Stock at least one open and one closed system from a big brand such as Blu. Support your range of devices with a strong range of e-liquids, especially fruit flavours, in a variety of nicotine strengths – including nic salts such as Myblu Intense – to cater for all tastes. 

2. VISIBILITY

You can display, advertise and promote vaping products in store. Dynamic displays and eye-catching PoS will help drive visibility and grab the attention of shoppers as soon as they walk through your door.

3. EDUCATION

Make sure you understand the different products and terminology and share this knowledge with staff. This will enable you to advise customers on what products are right for them and help them switch. Engaging with customers will also help you tailor your range.