Parfetts Birmingham

Parfetts has admitted to lagging behind the curve when it comes to the sale of vape products.

Speaking at the FWD conference in Manchester on Thursday, Parfetts joint MD Guy Swindell said the business was losing out on sales to local vape specialists, who were able to capitalise on the latest trends and offer retailers a better margin.

“Vape is a bit of a nightmare for us,” said Swindell. “We’re talking to the tobacco suppliers because we really do need some help on this.”

“We need a better focus in our cash & carries and online because it’s a big category that we’re really missing out on.”

He implied that new legislation could change the way business is conducted in the sector, but currently convenience retailers had a better knowledge of the market than the wholesaler itself.

Last week it was revealed the UK government had sought views on Australia’s plans to enforce stricter laws on the vape category, as part of an effort to reduce underage sales.

It follows the discovery in February that disposable vape manufacturer ElfBar had been filling products with 50% more e-liquid than permitted under UK law.

Swindell went on to talk about the continued challenge of maintaining shared margin in the sector, amidst spiralling inflation and increasing credit card interchange fees.

In October last year, Parfetts’ buying group Unitas announced a collective boycott of Mars Wrigley after the supplier was accused of squeezing margins.

“We’ve been really pushing suppliers on that shared margin piece,” said Swindell. ”Early on we saw some margins reduce. However, I think we’ve now seen some of the fruits of that labour, and some suppliers have been listening and even increasing margin, which has been a great help.

“Card processing fees are still an absolute killer and we’re spending a lot of time as a business thinking hard about how we counter that,” Swindell added.

The wholesaler recently partnered with technology solutions company B2B Store to provide an open banking service to its customers. It allows customers to pay for goods directly from their business account, incurring much lower charges for the wholesaler by avoiding credit card interchange fees.