Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, most specialist online vape retailers had remodelled their retail operations to sell their products online and offer home-deliveries. Most businesses had to add to their warehouse space, increased the size of their customer service teams and set up online and telephone-based advice channels for vapers and smokers.
Naturally, online retailers have experienced a considerable increase in demand. One such retailer, Vape Club, has reported a 150-200% increase in business. “Normally, when we experience larger order volumes than normal such as at Christmas, we would increase staffing levels to cope. However, this hasn’t been possible due to the circumstances and instead we’ve extended shift times and added ones at the weekend,” said Managing Director Dan Marchant.
The necessary precautionary restrictions to be set in place
“We’ve been extremely busy installing all the necessary measures so that we completely adhere to the government guidance to ensure the safety of our staff and customers,” said Doug Mutter, Manufacturing and Compliance Director at VPZ, one of the largest independent vape shop chains in the UK.
“We would ask our customers to be patient as we follow distancing guidance which may limit the numbers of customers in store at any one time. We are also encouraging card payments (preferably contactless) and we have removed all testers and device samples, so nothing can be touched and passed around, but our expert trained staff are on hand to offer full advice as always.”
Andrej Kuttruf, Chief Executive at vape retailer Evapo, which has 37 stores in the UK, added that besides the new in-store safety features, vape shops will also be opening on restricted timings. “Our stores will be open on restricted opening times 10am – 5.30pm, 6 days a week. We have prepared Sneeze Screens at the till, hand sanitizers for customers, masks and gloves for our store teams and floor liners to indicate social distance. Our store teams will be wearing head visors and we are also selling a wide range of PPE and hand sanitizers to the public.”
Oxford Vapours are taking this a step further and also displaying large educational information graphics, based on NHS advice, on the pros of vaping and general information for vapers. “One of the benefits of vape shops is the specialist advice they give to both smokers looking to quit and also vapers. Having such advice featured on our walls will help this process in the new shop environment,” said owner Dan Greenall.
While ECigWizard, which has 54 stores across the UK, has also provided additional cleaning products and hand sanitizer along with clear instructions on increasing cleaning at key touch points.
The industry has been “agile and resourceful”
John Dunne, Director at the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) commented: “The industry has been phenomenally agile and resourceful in initially having to transition overnight to an online business model when shops had to close during the lockdown and then start up again with a very different operating environment.”
“The lengths to which the industry has gone to get their shops ready for the new government guidance on social distancing in-store means that customers can feel very reassured about shopping in their local vape stores.”