The recent E-Cigarette phenomenon has brought with it some new thinking with retailing.
I was recently wandering and window watching in Shibuya this week and came upon something rather curious, which invited a second look.
Now I’ve worked in the field of tobacco retailing for a while, and like many of my design peers, we’ve tried to bring some innovation into it. Some twentieth century merchandising techniques to start with. So when I discovered JTI’s pop up space in Shibuya I was pleasantly surprised.
At first sight, I was challenged to understand what this space was all about. You could mistaken into thinking it was a private launch event for a fashion label. Noting that it was nestled amongst some brand new flagship stores with queues akin to people lining up at a nightclub.
However, after a second take, I noted the no smoking signs. Curious I approached the staff member who then handed me a brochure, to learn it was a JTI space promoting E cigarettes.
So, being a smoker myself, I was even more curious to look inside, where I found smokers relaxing with their new device. There was even a counter with some pretty cool accessories.
So that was that and we walked on our way. But then it got me thinking….
Why did the space need to be so secretive about the nature of the product and activity, when after all it is a smokeless product that’s harmless to surrounding public and be more acceptable? 30 seconds further along the road and the real smokers could be found along a side street out in full open view. This appears to be a little ironic.
Now it was only recently in the news that Heathrow Airport has created a zone specifically for users of E-Cigarettes, which in itself is curious. Again for the same reasons.
So I have come to the conclusion that the issue is more about the ‘habit’. About people being seen smoking. Now if combustible tobacco products were outlawed tomorrow I would ask if the governing gods would if they would dismantle the smoking booths in airports or keep them for e-cigarette users? Yes we know they deliver nicotine, but they don’t omit dangerous harmful smoke. So there’s no need.
And now we can categorise e-cigarettes as a ‘delivery mechanism’ I must compare it with other similar products, e.g. high hit carbonated caffeine drinks etc……
The tobacco industry are as ever ahead of the curve, with direct sales of E-cigarettes online bringing an altogether new distribution channel.
It’s going to be interesting watching the future debates and trends in this category.