Upping our e-cigarettes game: stage 1

Woodlands Local vaping range

With sales of e-cigarettes stalling in local retailing, we’ve decided to up our game by utilising some free space in the tobacco gantry of our Woodlands Local store in Falkirk to add another shelf of vaping kit to try to attract more footfall and drive sales and profits from the category.

by Antony Begley

Vaping has long represented one of the biggest opportunities to local retailers in Scotland, particularly with the latest legislation making it harder than ever for many vape shops to remain profitable – so why have sales flatlined in convenience in a category that seems to be going from strength to strength?

The answer to that question is complicated but is likely to found in three areas: a lack of understanding of the category by local retailers; a failure to offer the range that both new and seasoned vapers are looking for; and a failure to merchandise e-cigarettes effectively in-store.

I have long suspected that we only see vaping customers for a very short period, usually when they have decided to quit smoking and convert to e-cigarettes. For the first few weeks they buy their hardware from us then buy some liquids but quickly migrate up the vaping chain and realise that they can buy the bigger, more powerful ‘mods’ elsewhere and can also find a bigger range of better-value liquids elsewhere too, usually in specialist vape shops or online.

The way to combat that requires some serious effort and a little in-store investment – and we’re underway with a project to do just that – but in the meantime, we have done some work in Woodlands to try to develop the category using what we have.

Consequently, we’ve bought in a range of bargain-basement-price 88 Vape products – pens, coils and liquids – to appeal to the price conscious shopper, of whom we seem to have many. The pens retail at just £6.99 and the coils and liquids sell at just £1. So far, they have been doing reasonably well in-store without yet setting any heather alight.

We have also migrated all vaping lines onto the main tobacco gantry to give them more prominence in-store and make them easier to spot for shoppers. We used to have most of them on a shelf to the left of the gantry with only JTI’s Logic brand enjoying life on the tobacco fixture.

The fixture is certainly a lot more attractive and a lot more visible, and we now stock four options:

  • JTI’s Logic range
  • Fontem’s blu range
  • a range of Edge liquids at £2.50
  • the 88 Vape range detailed above

The big challenge in this category is making the products visible and offering a range that caters for vapers at all stages of their vaping journey. We firmly believe that we need to add some big brand mods and accessories as well as broaden our liquids range to cater for those who currently only shop online or in nearby vape shops. That’s on our hitlist and we’re working on it now – but for the time being we hope the improvements will reap dividends.

We have also communicated our improved offer on social media and have had an encouraging response so far.