Visitors to this year’s National Convenience Show can’t have failed to notice the vast number of electronic cigarette companies vying for retailers’ attention. No fewer than 20 were on hand to extol the virtues of this booming market, which E-Lites says is expected to surpass the £120m mark by the end of this year as products continue to evolve, and understanding among retailers and consumers continues to grow.


That’s how much the UK’s electronic cigarettes market is expected to be worth by the end of this year, according to E-Lites

There are now thought to be more than 40 different e-cig companies trading in the UK and selling a wide variety of different e-cig products at varying price points and with different unique selling points. Some, such as Greensmartliving which manufacturers the Super e-cigarette, have an eco-friendly business model, offering retailers 20% off their next order if they return used batteries. Others, such as Matchless, offer an array of flavours such as cherry and vanilla, while E-Lites products feature an eye-catching green LED tip. And who could forget NJOY’s smart plastic case designed to fit snuggly in the pocket, protect the e-cig, and even house one regular tobacco cigarette for those adult smokers who chose to dual between the two.

And let’s not forget the big name tobacco manufacturers who are also making strides into the market. The tail end of 2012 saw BAT snap up CN Creative Ltd, the makers of the Intellecig brand, and just last month Imperial Tobacco revealed that it had made a small investment in e-cigarette business Fontem Ventures. The standalone Imperial subsidiary is looking into the development of non-tobacco consumer products.

Retailer view

“Sales of e-cigs are growing month on month and I see no sign of this changing. I now have a separate display area dedicated to e-cigs right next to my cigarette display, and I have quite a wide range of products from leading UK companies.

“There is now a huge variety of e-cig companies operating in the UK so I can understand how knowing which brands to stock could be confusing. I only sell e-cig products that I have used myself - being a former smoker who has switched to e-cigs, I prefer to try them out myself to see if they are any good. I buy all my e-cig equipment from established UK companies.

“For basic introduction kits I recommend a company called JacVapour. The quality is second to none.

“I also sell some of the more advanced e-cig kits for more experienced users, and again my golden rule is to get these from UK companies. I use Ecigwizard and Liberty Flights for the bigger batteries and liquids.

“In terms of what consumers want from e-cig products, many new users want something that looks and feels like a cigarette because it’s familiar. However, there are more advanced products on the market which are more effective, and most e-cig users will move on to these eventually.

“Many people are going for a device called an eGo battery, which has a capacity of up to six times more than a smaller e-cig and has a clear tank on top that vapourises the liquid.”

Matt Gibbons, Gluggles, York

Providing retailers stock reliable products, the benefits of the e-cig boom to convenience stores are clear. Not only do they engender the same high footfall buying habits as traditional cigarettes, but the margins that they can offer are sizeable, in many cases up to 40%.

“Our products offer retailers the chance to double their margins - closer to £1.50 a pack,” says Bo Ekberg, vice-president of leading US e-cig company Njoy, which has just launched Njoy Kings here.

“It’s unique in the convenience industry - a high margin product that takes up hardly any space. It’s like the perfect product!”

At present UK e-cig brands sit within two broad camps: rechargeable products and disposable products. The latter currently account for the lion’s share of the market within convenience as adult smokers get to grips with e-cigs, and trial different brands and flavours.

Unlike specialist tobacconists, which tend to sell a much broader mix of more specialist e-cig products (known to ‘vapping’ enthusiasts as personal vaporizers, PVs or mods), most e-cigs on sale through UK convenience stores are designed to look, feel and taste similar to traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Successful companies such as E-Lites have been investing in technological developments and high-profile ad campaigns in the national press and on TV.

“This twin focus on product quality and brand personality is the only way to establish long-term value, particularly in a sector with many short-term market entrants seeking to make a fast buck with cheap, low-quality products coming from emerging economies,” says Adrian Everet, founder and chief executive of the E-Lites brand, which achieved sales growth of more than 300% in 2012.

“The challenge of competition from inferior products sold into the UK by short-term market entrants means there is a consistent need for us to establish and maintain a clear lead in quality through constant innovation,” he adds.

With the pool of e-cig companies vying for retailers’ attention deepening by the day, one of the best ways for retailers to enter the market with confidence is to choose a brand or supplier which is a member of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA), says retailer and e-cig specialist Matt Gibbons of Gluggles store in York.

“If a retailer buys from an ECITA member then they can be assured that the product will meet a high standard,” he says.

With the brand chosen, where should retailers be displaying e-cigs in store? Visits to stores have revealed a wide variety of approaches, from clip-strip displays on the gantry itself to in among the tobacco accessories, or in standalone counter-top displays. This is certainly the approach that E-Lites favours.

“E-cigarettes should certainly be positioned at till point or next to tobacco products. That is where they mostly are to be found in the 14,000 or so UK outlets where they are already available and it’s where they need to stay,” says Everet.•

Ones to watch

Full of flavours

The FTA group’s Matchless e-cig brand has recently been made available in two new flavours. Cherry and vanilla now join: Matchless Red for full nicotine strength (24mg) tobacco flavour Blue, medium nicotine strength (18mg) tobacco flavour Mint, low nicotine strength (12mg) tobacco flavour and Zero, which contains no nicotine.

rrp: £5.49

tel: 01527 557825

Keep Karma

Fosters Distributors’ eKARMA e-cig is now available to independents. There are three variants - regular, light and menthol. The disposable e-cigs feature a separate battery compartment to isolate the vapour from potential contamination. The company claims that each e-cig gives the user an equivalent of more than 40 traditional cigarettes.

rrp: £4.99.

tel: 0161 246 6066

As seen on TV

E-cig manufacturer E-Lites became one of the first to launch a national TV advertising campaign earlier this year. The campaign featured Waterloo Road actor Mark Benton, who played the role of a father who misses his baby’s first steps because he went outside to smoke a cigarette.

The brand offers a variety of recharcheable variants including instant-use e-cigs, rrp £6.99.

tel: 0800 112 3401

Intelligent thinking

Intellicig boasts a range of disposable and rechargeable e-cig products along with the support of a dedicated team. The brand’s Intellicig Disposable e-cig claims to offer smokers up to 350 inhalations. Intellicig also manufactures its own liquid solution, ECOpure, in a UK laboratory located within the bioscience facility at the University of Manchester.

tel: 08000 337 935