Indies playing catch-up in vaping despite category growth

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E-cigarette merchandise is displayed for sale at a vaping shop in Bedminster, on December 30, 2016 in Bristol.
E-cigarette merchandise is displayed for sale at a vaping shop in Bedminster, on December 30, 2016 in Bristol. (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Independent and symbol retailers are still playing catch up in vaping despite increasing category sales by more than a quarter.

Vape sales in independent retailers grew 28.8 percent over the past year – beating their symbol counterparts who achieved growth of 22.8 percent – but still lagged behind the multiple channel which posted 37 percent growth and a total category growth of 31.8 percent in traditional retail, according to IRI.

Together independents and symbols have a combined 28.2 percent of the traditional retail sector. Multiple retailers continue to have the majority of vaping sales with a market share of 62 percent.

Over the same period, closed pod systems have increased their share of the total market from 12.5 percent to 31.6 percent while liquids – although still in growth – have seen their overall share decline from 47.7 percent to 39.6 percent.

John Patterson, Sales Director of JUUL Labs UK, commented: “The past year has seen solid growth in the vape category within independent and symbol stores as more retailers embrace the category and current vape retailers enhance their range. However despite sales up 26 percent, the independent and convenience channels are still underperforming in the vape category. This signposts the huge potential for growth still to come within the category and for the channel.”

Patterson believes that despite independent and convenience being slower to see the potential of closed pod vaping systems, they are now catching up.

“This time last year, closed systems accounted for just over 6 percent of all vaping sales through independents and convenience stores. Today, that figure is in excess of 28 percent. Although open systems is still the dominant sector and should be a major part of any vape offer, the gap is narrowing rapidly as closed pod systems such as JUUL become the systems of choice for adult smokers looking to switch from combustible tobacco products,” he said.