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Big Tobacco Gets Into Retail Storefronts

British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International have both opened stores to educate consumers on how to vape.

Big tobacco firms are getting into the retail business more directly than in past years. British American Tobacco (BAT) has opened a store in Milan to sell Vype, its e-cig product, while Philip Morris International has stores in England, Italy, Japan and Switzerland to promote its heat-not-burn product iQOS, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For BAT, the strategy to having an actual store extends beyond selling electronic cigarettes. The firm wants to use the location as another way to promote new products, such as Pebble, a Vype-branded vaping device that debuted yesterday. “If we’re going to massify the market—inject life into it—we have to come up with these innovative, groundbreaking products,” said Kingsley Wheaton, who heads BAT’s next-generation products.

This increased emphasis on connecting with customers on the ground comes as sales of cigarettes continue to soften. Philip Morris even said this week that the company could stop selling traditional cigarettes one day and is focusing on developing tobacco alternatives.

BAT CEO Nicandro Durante has a long-term view in mind when it comes to e-cigs and other vaping devices, which have experienced slow growth. Wheaton predicted that next-generation products will reach $18.7 billion within five years, but he doesn’t see cigarettes disappearing altogether.

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