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% over the past year – beating their symbol counterparts who achieved growth of 22.8% – but still lagged behind the multiple channel which posted 37% growth and a total category growth of 31.8% in traditional retail* according to IRI.1

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

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

John Patterson, Sales Director of JUUL Labs UK comments; “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%, 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% of all vaping sales through independents and convenience stores. Today, that figure is in excess of 28%. 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.  One of the main reasons the multiples are pulling ahead is that they embraced closed pod systems earlier and closed systems now outperform open system sales in their stores. The convenient nature of these products means that they are ideal for convenience stores and many more retailers should be making them the hero in their vaping fixture.”

Patterson is convinced that independent and convenience retailers have to focus on closed systems to get their fair share of the vaping category.

“Closed pod systems are driving 80% of the total market growth in traditional retail. Although independents and symbols have 28% of this sector, if we include specialist vape and online stores, their combined vape share is estimated to be in the region of 12%. The opportunity lies in these stores getting the same share of vape as they have in tobacco –  which is around 45%.2 Adult smokers looking to switch expect to see smoking alternatives in the stores where they purchase their tobacco. By providing a credible vaping solution with simple, convenient closed pod systems at its heart,  independents and convenience retailers can retain these customers instead of pushing them into other channels which means lost sales and profit – not only on vaping products but on other impulse products such as soft drinks, alcohol, etc. The good news is that there is still fantastic headroom for growth as 60% of the UK’s seven million adult smokers want to quit3 and see vaping as the preferred method to begin their switching journey.”4

JUUL Labs’ mission is to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers and ultimately eliminate cigarettes. In the UK the company runs a compulsory Challenge 25 programme for all retailers which mandates that all retailers ask anyone attempting to purchase its products who appear under the age of 25 provide proof of identification that they are over 18 – the legal age to purchase vaping products in the UK.

JUUL Labs  range for independent convenience channel

Starter Kit (JUUL device, USB charger, four flavoured JUULpods) – RRP £29.99

Single devices (Slate Grey/ Silver) – RRP £24.99

18mg/ml JUULpods 4-pack (Golden Tobacco, Glacier Mint, Mango Nectar, Royal Creme, Apple Orchard, Alpine Berry) – RRP  £10.99

9mg/ml JUULpods 4-pack (Golden Tobacco, Glacier Mint, Mango Nectar) – RRP £10.99


  1. All sales data: IRI YOY to 20/10/2109
  2. Beige Analytics 201
  3. Office of National Statistics, Adult Smoking Habits in the UK, July 2019
  4. Mintel Smoking Cessation in the UK Jan 2019

*Traditional retail is defined as multiples, High Street, Petrol multiples, symbol, convenience and Travel

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