Welcoming e-cigarette users into licensed premises can benefit trade, firms say
Of all the challenges encountered by the Scottish trade in recent years, the smoking ban remains one of the bitterest pills publicans have had to swallow.
While outdoor spaces have helped some operators mitigate the effects of the ban, not everyone is able to create a comfortable space for smokers outside their premises.
But, with the rise of e-cigarettes, it seems operators have an opportunity to attract smokers back to pubs and bars – and keep them there.
While the Scottish Government last year consulted on the subject of e-cigarettes – including their use in enclosed public spaces – there is currently no law in Scotland banning their use in pubs.
And e-cig firms claim it is well worth making e-cigarette users (or ‘vapers’) feel welcome in outlets, as well as stocking a small range of products.
“Patrons that use e-cigs are consistently looking for venues that allow e-use and that can supply e-liquids or parts,” said Alan Teader, marketing manager at Vaporized.
“In addition, not forcing patrons to leave the premise when using an e-cig gives them more time in the actual bar, meaning more time to consume drinks which in turn leads to the potential of more sales.”
The advantages of keeping customers physically in the premises was also stressed by Allan Barclay of Ecigs-Scotland.
“The main benefits from a business perspective are that the patrons are inside, spending cash on food, drink, pool tables, etc,” he said.
“Also there are not any problems with noise/mess/anti-social behaviour outside as there is no need to have vapers outside.”
The products can even help contribute to the atmosphere in the premises, according to Vicky Grant of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA).
“Where vaping is allowed in bars and pubs, you will often find that these are vibrant places, where vapers will congregate to share a pint and a vape – very much in the spirit of the traditional pub which has been so decimated by the smoking ban,” said Grant.
The products can also provide a solid margin for operators, according to Barclay at Ecigs-Scotland, who claimed the equipment can return a gross profit of between 50% and 100%, depending on which products are stocked.
A wide range of e-cigarettes and associated products – such as chargers and different flavoured liquids – are now on the market, and the technology continues to develop.
But Barclay said operators needn’t worry too much about stocking the most up-to-date products.
“The technology is changing at a very fast pace,” he said.
“However, pubs etc. do not need to be at the cutting edge of the technology. The specialist vape shops can cater for that.
“The pubs should stick to a reputable/reliable lower/mid-range product that provides high margin and low staff training requirements – the need to review the product depends entirely on how far down the rabbit hole the publican wishes to go. On a normal basis the core range will remain effectively unchanged.”
And, as with drinks products, a solid relationship with a supplier will keep operators in the loop if there are any products they should be stocking, according to Grant.
She said: “A good relationship with your supplier company should ensure that you are informed of any new products which might be of interest.
“Then the bar or pub operator can decide – based on what their own customers are telling them – whether they want to ring some changes, or stick with what they’ve got.”
Most important is that the users of these products are aware that they are allowed to use them in the premises, said Barclay.
He advised operators to display point of sale materials throughout their outlets, including in any outside smoking areas.