I know electronic cigarettes are huge these days, and a still-growing trend, but I was very taken aback to see a new store open in a high road, comprising a long open space with just four tall glass cases in the window featuring nothing but e-cigs, arranged like high-class jewellery. There was also a narrow bar set to one side running down most of the length of the store. That was it… the whole retail space was devoted to e-cigs.
The store is in Loughton, capital of Essex trendy. This is not cheap space in bricks and mortar terms I promise you, with some eye-wateringly high property price tags.
I was going to call Loughton the spiritual home of The Only Way is Essex but, on second thought, Loughton is more like TOWIE’s capital centre. I could be wrong on that last factoid – do let me know – but I live just a few miles inland from Loughton and visit it quite a lot (although, ’fess up, I’ve never watched the show).
I just thought, blimey, e-cigs really are right up there. With designer frocks, expensive bags and make-up.
My curiosity was so piqued that I went back for another visit. Turns out they are not so daft as to waste expensive retail space. It had only been open for three weeks and this was a bit of a trial.
If it takes off (and it’s doing very well so far) then a coffee bar will be installed and a few lounging couches, turning the whole lot into a vaping café. There was a charming guy in charge, quite happy to shoot the breeze with me.
The e-cig store is one of 21 (and counting) branches of Liberty Flights, which have fanned out of Darwen, Lancashire, since 2009. The retail stores are spreading fast, from Fulham and Finchley to Sale and Stockport, adding another element to its online e-cig and accessories business.
The company offers, and I quote, ‘high quality vaping products and premium XO E-liquid, made in Britain’. That’s quite a good point, that made in Britain one. Probably means they won’t explode.
I cannot be the only journalist in grocery who gets daily e-mails from China, offering me cheap e-cigs for resale (as they mistakenly think I run a store after their website search pitches up that I am published as part of Convenience Store). Do you get them, too?