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Puffing out profits
Published:  11 January, 2019

Public Health England (PHE) is currently doing its bit for the vaping sector with a new film showing the harm that traditional smoking does to the body and how this can be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette. The film, which has been released as part of PHE's Health Harms campaign to encourage smokers to give up smoking, shows the high levels of cancer-causing chemicals and tar inhaled by an average smoker over a month, compared to not smoking or using an e-cigarette.

The campaign pushes the message that research estimates that, while not totally risk-free, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking. PHE says around 2.5 million adults are using e-cigarettes in England, and they have helped thousands of people to successfully quit but many smokers (44%) either believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking, or don't know that vaping poses much lower risks to health. Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, says: "It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety.

"We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking."

There's a massive opportunity in the vaping market as PHE figures reveal that 40% of smokers have never tried vaping. Then there are the people who have tried vaping in the past, but have not found a product that suits them. However, manufacturers are working hard to develop new kit that better replicates the traditional smoking experience. Last month British American Tobacco (BAT) announced the launch of two new Vype products the iSwitch and iSwitch Maxx which use new vaping technology called Vype puretech, which results in a "more satisfying, smoother and richer vape". It also has around 99% fewer toxicants, which is the biggest reduction that BAT has seen in any of its vape products.

The two new e-cigarettes are currently available in five of BAT's VIP-branded stores in London but there are plans to roll them out further in the UK and online this year.

However, one product that is available widely now is myblu featuring nicotine salts (nicsalts). Nicsalts more closely resemble the way that nicotine is found in the tobacco leaf in its natural state. Chris Street, head of sales and marketing operations at blu, says myblu will particularly appeal to adult smokers looking to switch for the first time, or those who have tried vaping in the past and haven't been completely convinced by it.

"Myblu delivers an enhanced vaping experience that is simple, powerful and convenient, making it an attractive product that appeals to existing vapers looking for a second device, vape/tobacco dualists and smokers looking to switch. The device combines a high-performance vaporiser with hassle-free Liquidpods that allow consumers to switch between flavours in seconds via a simple 'click and go' system. Myblu offers more power and a broader range of flavours (including nicsalt variants) than many other pod mod products in the market at a great value price point."

Another recent addition to the blu portfolio is blu ACE, which brings the popular 'mod' experience to the mass market thanks to its superior sub-ohm performance, stronger vapour production and bigger tank than its closest competitors. It allows vapers to tweak and personalise the way they inhale, meaning this advanced sub-ohm system can generate bigger, smoother vapour than any other product in the blu portfolio.

Street says a significant challenge the traditional retail industry faces around vaping relates to a lack of category understanding among traditional retailers. "While online retailers and bricks and mortar vape stores are cashing in on the category by offering informed, specialist advice to customers, c-store owners are currently missing out.

"Research shows that 75% of vaping sales stem from online or vape shops, suggesting there is substantial scope for retailers to upskill their category knowledge, develop their offerings and begin to reap their share of vape sales."

Street says one thing that needs to be highlighted is the unique relationship enjoyed between convenience retailers and their loyal shoppers. "In many instances, consumers trust and rely on advice from their local retailer regarding what products to buy, and this presents a significant potential competitive advantage over both online and the mults, especially when it comes to the vape category. This relationship is particularly important when it comes to adult smokers looking to switch from tobacco to vaping, as unlike online and vape stores traditional retailers usually offer both tobacco and vaping products for sale. Independent retailers can therefore play a key role in terms of helping their adult smokers switch to something better."

Karanbir Landa, director at DSL group, says that unlike their vape shop counterparts forecourt retailers do not have the luxury of time to demonstrate products to customers. He explains: "Often their customers are buying on impulse so retailers need products that represent good value for money, have low return rates and are ones that customers will enjoy and buy again and again. Vapers, like smokers, become very loyal to one flavour/nicotine strength that works for them and they really want to have confidence in the product."

He says success in vaping sales comes from visibility and DSL can help with this with point-of-sale material.

Dai Parry director at UK Vape Supply agrees that visibility is important: "Banners and flags on the forecourt itself will let customers and passers-by know that vape products are available in your store."

One of UK Vape Supply's most recent listings is Stevensons of Oxbridge in Stockton-on-Tees. Parry says they have taken the company's full range and have been provided with full support including posters, gantry design and display, banners, flags and menu cards.

Another forecourt that's been doing well with visilibity is Penny Petroleum's Astley Service Station in Greater Manchester, which has a one-metre Vape Station behind the counter. That one metre includes products for established vapers as well as those for people who are new to the category. Manager Nicki Cumpstey says: "We've had The Vape Station for just over a year now and sales have definitely gone up since we've had it. It is an open gantry so customers can easily see what we have. Some customers come in asking for specific items but others will ask questions about products. DeBang and Nasty Juice are probably our biggest sellers."


Getting your range right

Many vapers have multiple devices for different occasions and are looking for great flavour and quality that they can use across their device portfolio.
In response to this trend, Vapouriz created an easy-to-sell, easy-to-use, high quality brand: Vapouriz 50|50. It's made from equal ratios of PG (Propylene Glycol) and VG (Vegetable Glycerin) liquid which means it can be used in classic vape machines delivering a full, flavoursome vape, as well as great cloud formation in sub ohm devices. Brett Horth, CEO at Vapouriz Group, says this makes it a perfect retail solution option for any vaper who comes onto a forecourt store, and an easy product to sell.
"We recognise that not all personnel fully understand the nuances of vaping products, and 50|50 is easy and simple to understand and sell. Also, coming from the Vapouriz stable, it is a high-quality product available in a wide range of desirable flavours."
Horth's main advice to forecourt retailers is to stock a wide range of quality liquids in a variety of nicotine strengths and flavours.
"We tend to find that those switching to vaping start on a reasonably high nicotine content and a tobacco or menthol liquid, such as Original Tobacco or Double Menthol before reducing their nicotine strength and exploring the wide range of different flavours available.
"Make sure the products that you offer are good quality, from a reputable company like Vapouriz. Our fully owned, state-of-the-art production centre, with the latest high-quality technology at our Surrey HQ, means we can oversee all stages of the production process."


Top tips: E-cig brand blu shares some advice

Devices: stock at least one open system and one closed system from a leading brand like blu, but also consider stocking new product offerings like myblu and blu ACE to tap into the latest category trends.
Flavour: make sure your range is supported with a strong portfolio of e-liquids, especially popular fruity flavours, in a variety of nicotine strengths including nicsalts like myblu Intense, to cater for all needs and tastes.
Be knowledgeable: take time to read up on the category to understand the different product types, how they work and the terminology. Don't forget about your staff either, especially if one of them is a vaper. Consider empowering an in-store 'vaping champion'; they could prove to be a valuable asset in helping to build customer trust and loyalty.
Don't forget clearomisers: ideally, they should be changed after every two bottles of e-liquids, or every time a flavour or brand is switched, to provide the optimum vaping experience. They can also be a great way to upsell and drive additional sales and margin.
Availability: if a product isn't available, your customers may go elsewhere and not return, so ensure you're fully stocked at all times. Regularly check stock levels to make sure you don't run out and be prepared for seasonal vape spikes around New Year, VApril and Stoptober.
Be visible: remember, you can display, advertise and promote vaping products in store. Countertop units, impactful back-wall displays and point-of-sale material located in and around the store can be a great way to drive visibility.


Know the law

December 1, 2018 saw the deadline for CLP (classification, labelling and packaging) compliance on vape products. All products containing 18mg of nicotine now need to carry a skull and crossbones icon (in a tactile triangle), and the words 'danger, toxic if swallowed'. Products containing 12mg of nicotine need to carry an exclamation mark (in a tactile triangle), with a warning 'harmful if swallowed'. Check that this new legislation has been implemented across your stock to ensure that you are on the right side of the law.