Seven quick questions—and answers—about retailing vapor products
By George Gay
The London Vape Co., which was formed in 2014 from an online business, now has four retail stores in London, where it employs 15 people, but it is looking this year to expand its presence to 10 stores and is always on the lookout for talented people. It might look to establish itself outside London and even overseas, but, no matter, the “London” in its trading name is not always used. It is known also as The Vape Co. and just Vape Co. Managing Director Anthony Mixides attributes the firm’s success to customer service, the up-to-date advice that it delivers and the fact that it offers the latest vapor products.
“We sell e-liquids, starter vape kits, advanced vape mods and accessories, as well as offering some services, such as coil building and classes,” he says. “We have a company that manufactures our own Vape Co. e-liquids and supplies an array of popular e-liquid and hardware brands. However, mainly we stock the popular—but also the lesser-known—mods, tanks and liquids that we find meet our high standards. Our own range of e-liquids comes in 38 different flavors ranging from fruit-based to tobacco flavors.”
Vapor Voice: How do you add new products to your range?
Mixides: We monitor the marketplace for new product releases and listen to customers’ requests. We stock two categories of liquids: house and guest. Our guest brands are constantly rotated, though if one such brand becomes very popular, we add it to our house list and do our best always to have it in stock.
Are your employees involved in this process?
Most definitely. They are all avid vapers; they follow the market very closely and are constantly monitoring what is good and what should be brought into the company. In fact, our mods and tanks generally follow the trends and recommendations of our staff and customers. We have new e-liquids arriving nearly every day, and these are generally tested by our people, who provide feedback to my area managers. We try to avoid having too many overlaps before ordering, and now we are trying to look only at companies that comply with [new EU Tobacco Products Directive] requirements.
Do you offer the same products from each of your stores?
Products do vary depending on store locations because some products do well in one store but not in others. The moment we realize this is the case, we quickly move the products in question to the store selling the most of that particular e-liquid or hardware. With e-liquids, we do have store exclusives to encourage customers to visit our other branches. But, on the other hand, we have had one previously exclusive e-liquid that was so popular in one branch that we will be rolling it out to other branches soon.
Is the design of your stores similar in each case?
The latest two stores we have opened have the defined look and feel we will carry forward to our new store locations. This design is important because it has given our stores and our company a far more professional look. And that is a look—and feel—that really reflects what we are about: up-to-date advice, latest vape products and great customer service. We want our customers to feel comfortable when entering any of our stores.
Have your sales been increasing?
Since we started we have seen a growth in sales month on month. We have a strong repeat-buying customer base and new customers every month. Our loyalty points system really keeps customers with us, and we sometimes have a problem maintaining stocks. Eighty percent of our business comprises e-liquids. For the everyday vaper, our own liquids are the most popular, but more experienced vapers tend to go for our American brands of gourmet liquids. Our most popular device has to be our own starter kit because we see a lot of people looking to quit smoking and that is the best device to get them started.
Who buys from you?
The average age of our customers is 25 to 50, with approximately 60 percent of them men and 40 percent women. We find that a lot of people are still unsure about the world of vaping. Some are novices, and for them we offer a “try before you buy” [program] where we explain the different devices that are available and advise them about what we think are the best combinations of device and flavor to help them quit. We have even had maybe one or two customers who were nonsmokers, but that’s not something we have seen regularly.