Using his own experience to connect with customers, owner of Scotland-based Vapetek Graham Park says his biggest advantage is being trustworthy and understanding his customers – and not mis-selling expensive products just to make more profit. His other big advantage? Making the most of both in-store and online channels to drive sales. Read on to find out how this Vape retailer is shaking up the cigarette industry.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started and what you’re all about?
I entered the electronic cigarette or vaping industry back in 2012 when I part of a team that were the first to create a chain of specialised shops in Scotland. From there, we grew the business to become Scotland’s first major manufacturer and wholesaler of e-liquids and other vaping products. Then using the skills and contacts I had made, I decided to open my own bricks and mortar store in Glasgow. While being successful on its own, the store has definitely been bolstered by our retail website, Facebook, Instagram. We aim to actively promote the store through as many online channels as possible.
What’s your local community like?
The bricks and mortar shop would be nothing without its customers and the local community helping to spread the word. And we like to do our part for the community too. VapeTek is involved in various local projects such as Cambuslang in Bloom, where business donations help pay for and maintain flower beds and hanging baskets, to make the local area more attractive for everyone. We’re also involved in collecting for various charities that are very close to the local community, like Teen Challenge that helps homeless teens by providing meals, supporting them through life changing issues and getting them back into safe housing.
What brought you to Vend and how have you found it? Would you recommend Vend to retailers like you?
I came across Vend whilst managing several stores throughout Scotland. I needed a solution that allowed me to access information and inventory in multiple stores on the go, without the need for expensive install or specialised equipment. Vend ticked all the boxes while still having very low costs compared to its competitors; so much so that when I started my own business, Vend was my first choice for tracking stock and sales and I would recommend it to anyone starting their own retail store. After several years of using Vend the amount work I can get done in one day has definitely increased. I can confidently say that being able to amend stock levels and adding products to several shops spread across a country whilst stuck in a traffic jam is one of the most satisfying feelings there is.
After several years of using Vend the amount work I can get done in one day has definitely increased. I can confidently say that being able to amend stock levels and adding products to several shops spread across a country whilst stuck in a traffic jam is one of the most satisfying feelings there is.
Having Vend reports at your fingertips also allows you to quickly get an overview of how well your business is doing so that you can make informed decisions, on the spot, on how best to run it.
Where does your passion come from for what you do?
Being a smoker since I was 14, I had tried several times to quit cigarettes without much success. But vaping and electronic cigarettes allowed me to finally give them up for good. Many of my customers are just starting their own journey towards quitting cigarettes and it gives me great pleasure seeing the difference in people from when they began to months down the line. One of the things that gives my store an advantage over the competition is that I understand why people are looking to use e-cigarettes, and that not everyone needs a piece of kit with all the bells and whistles that costs an arm and a leg. I pride myself in only selling products that suit the customers needs. Having a reputation as being trustworthy and kind goes a long way when it comes to bricks and mortar stores.
You mention online as being an important revenue channel – how do you run that alongside your physical store?
Using Vend in conjunction with Shopify has made everything easier when selling online as they work from the same inventory; this prevents you from selling the same item twice and not being able to provide it to a customer when purchased. It is also very helpful that I can enter product information into Vend about a new product and it updates my website and Facebook stores automatically.
Do you have any advice for retailers that you wish you’d known?
- At the beginning, selling online can sometimes feel a pointless task but stick with it and you might surprise yourself with the returns.
- Use all available channels to promote your business.
- Make friends in your chosen industry — they might be the one that can pull you out of a hole or link you up to someone that can help widen those margins.
- Mistakes happen; learn everything you can from them and don’t make them again!
About Kate Webby
Kate is the guardian of communications at Vend. Her love of retail began with ice cream (selling it at music festivals), jewellery (selling it in department stores), and badly made coffee (serving it in cafes). Having lived and worked for technology companies across the oceans, Kate loves sharing Vend's story and the success of its amazing customers around the world.