Coronavirus: VPZ runs Edinburgh trials to keep vape shops open in lockdown

Edinburgh-founded vaping group VPZ is trialling schemes in the capital which may enable its stores to continue serving the public in the event of a government-implemented lockdown.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 6:20 am
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 10:03 am
Vaping firms are asking the government to view vape stores as essential shops in the event of a coronavirus lockdown

The business, which claims to be the UK’s largest vaping retailer with a 150-store footprint, is preparing to keep its doors open if the UK government enforces a lockdown that follows the examples of Spain, Italy and Switzerland.

As part of measures to contain the Covid-19 virus, the three continental countries have closed all but essential stores. Supermarkets, pharmacies and vaping stores are permitted to remain open.

VPZ has begun trialling health and safety schemes in Edinburgh before rolling them out UK-wide. These include offering local deliveries for people who are not able to utilise an online sales platform. Customers can now call to place an order in-store and pay over the phone, in addition to using the retailer’s website.

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VPZ director Doug Mutter says the coronavirus measures are 'designed to help the most vulnerable’

The business has also removed all tester and sampling devices, introduced a customer limit within stores and placed all goods behind a counter so a “safe distance” naturally occurs and products are only touched by staff.

‘Helping the most vulnerable’

Doug Mutter, director of manufacturing and compliance at VPZ, said: “These measures are really designed for helping the most vulnerable groups in our society.

“We have trialled a number of options including same-day delivery and order by phone at specifically selected stores. These have been found to be helpful and the service well received by customers, which moving forward may well be an option for a number of our stores across the UK.”

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The trial comes after the vaping industry last week urged the Scottish Government to keep vape outlets open as part of any intensification of its coronavirus containment strategy.

The UK Vaping Industry Association argued that, due to the stress caused by the outbreak, vapers were “highly likely” to go back to smoking cigarettes to maintain their nicotine needs if vaping shops shut their doors.

Mutter added: “We have been advised by both the UK government and World Health Organisation that smoking has a hugely detrimental impact when coupled with Covid-19. We need to take every opportunity to help people protect themselves, and ensuring our staff and customers are kept safe.”

VPZ last month announced plans to invest £12 million over the next two years as it aims to grow its stores to 300.