A survey of U.S. convenience stores by Swiss global financial services company UBS has shed some light on the current electronic cigarette market. The survey of some 10,000 stores asked about their dealing with e-cigs and their expectations for the future.
The single most impressive finding is that despite e-cigs only having a market for a couple years, a whooping 82% of convenience stores currently offer them to customers. Of stores that offer electronic cigarettes, 32% offer 3 or more competing brands.
Stores have also been seeing growth in e-cig sales and expect it to continue. The lion’s share of stores (80%) have seen growth in the last 12 months. 78% expect growth to continue (20% responded as Not certain).
The industry is also far more fragmented than many probably believe. Currently, there are more than 250 brands fighting for space in the electronic cigarette market. One of the survey questions asked What is your best selling e-cig brand? The survey offered NJOY, Vapor (Krave), Metro, Smoker Friendly, blu, and other as possible answers. Other was selected by 41% of the stores, NJOY followed at 32%, and blu came up last at 2%. This may soon change as Lorillard (purchasers of blu) implement a more extensive sales campaign.
Similar to a survey done by Wells Fargo, UBS sees regulation, tax, and patent litigation as a source of continued uncertainty for the industry. States continue to push individual regulations for e-cigs, it is unclear if tobacco taxes will come to affect e-cigs (they already do in Minnesota), and Ruyan–the debatable originators of the e-cig–continue to push for a piece of other companies’ income.
Still, UBS sees the transition to electronic cigarettes as one that will take time. From the introduction of cigarettes in the late 1800’s to when they truly took over the tobacco market from smokeless spanned about 45 years. However, if e-cigs take 1% of the cigarette market, that equates to upwards of $1 billion in retail sales. This makes e-cigs a more viable market than some would give it credit for being.
The fast moving changes that social media and global communication networks have made possible could make the transition from conventional to electronic cigarettes something that could happen in less than a decade.