IQOS Unveils Flagship that Isn’t Allowed to have Storefront Signage [Photos]

Peter Luongo at WEM IQOS Store-4.jpg

By Mario Toneguzzi

It’s a store with no name but Rothman, Benson and Hedges Inc. has launched a flagship outlet in the West Edmonton Mall dedicated to help people quit smoking with its IQOS product.

Because of Health Canada regulations, the brand can’t be identified in store signage. The store, which is the fifth location in Canada, opened on Black Friday and it is the company’s first in an enclosed mall.

The Heat-not-Burn technology of IQOS is being sold in the 2,000-square-foot retail space. The tobacco products are developed in Switzerland and supported by category-leading science and technology, offering current adult smokers a smoke-free alternative to conventional cigarettes.  

Peter Luongo, the Managing Director of Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, the Canadian subsidiary of Philip Morris International, said the Edmonton store is the first time the company is deploying the global execution of the store brand.

“So in terms of the look and feel of the store, the product assortment that’s available, it’s very different from what we’ve done to date in Canada,” he said.

Peter Luongo at WEM IQOS Store-2.jpg
  Click for interactive ‘West Edmonton Mall’ map

Click for interactive ‘West Edmonton Mall’ map

The company currently has standalone streetfront locations in Toronto, with two stores, and one each in Vancouver and Calgary. The Edmonton store’s footprint is more than double the size of the other Canadian stores.

“We think it’s very helpful to have something that’s easily accessible for people where adult smokers will be able to find and access and learn more about,” said Luongo about the West Edmonton Mall store.

“I think we can continue to expand our footprint. One of the reasons we wanted to try in the West Edmonton Mall was to see how much more successful we can be if we’re in a high traffic location like West Edmonton Mall. I see opportunities for a number of additional stores, particularly to cover effectively the larger cities. We want to have it convenient for people to not only find and buy the device but also to get service if they have any issues with the device and to really provide a good experience for someone that they’ll only get in a retail environment.”

The on-going expansion is part of Philip Morris International’s goal to replace cigarettes with smoke-free products.

The company says that globally about 70 to 90 per cent of people who buy  IQOS use it exclusively or predominantly. PMI has invested over $4.5  billion US on research, development, and production to ensure adult smokers have better options.

It estimates that approximately 5.9 million adult smokers around the world  have already stopped smoking and switched to PMI’s heated tobacco product.

“We were looking at a retail footprint in Edmonton. We didn’t have a real store here yet so we saw it as a good place to expand. We were able to work very well with the team at the West Edmonton Mall in terms of finding the right location, finding the space that worked for us. And we’re just very excited about the opportunity to do more in Edmonton as opposed to adding an additional store in a city where we already had some presence,” added Luongo.

Because of the Health Canada regulations, the company is currently trying to figure out the best way to rename the stores to comply with the rules but also to let smokers know that it has alternatives to cigarettes available in the store.

“We still have to figure out what that name is. For the time being, we have essentially a store with no name but there are ways to know that we’re here. If people go online to our IQOS.com website they can search for our store locations,” said Luongo.

“At the end of the day, with something’s that’s relatively new and doesn’t have a high level of awareness yet, word of mouth is much more important for us today than just having the brand name.”

IQOS is an electronic device that generates a nicotine-containing aerosol  by heating tobacco at controlled temperatures below 350 degrees Celsius where burning /combustion does not occur. What’s key is IQOS  heats  tobacco instead of burning it. There’s no smoke, no fire, no ash and less  smell.

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“Many experts agree that nicotine, while addictive, is not the primary cause  of smoking-related diseases. IQOS is designed to be satisfying and  acceptable for smokers who want to use tobacco products,” said the company.

“A Heatstick or HEETS needs to be inserted into the device. Heatsticks contain tobacco, but are not cigarettes, they are made with a specially designed high-quality tobacco blend and are manufactured specifically for  IQOS. The user experience will typically last 6 minutes or 14  puffs.  IQOS  consists of three components: a pocket charger, a holder, and a heated tobacco unit. The holder is a battery-operated electronic system that heats  tobacco within a precisely controlled temperature range. This is achieved  via a heating blade, which acts as both a heater and a temperature sensor.  When the heated tobacco unit is inserted into the tobacco holder, the  heating blade is embedded in the tobacco. Once turned on, the heating  blade heats the tobacco to a maximum temperature of 350 degrees  Celsius. In its capacity as a temperature sensor, the heating blade ensures  that the temperature of the tobacco never exceeds this temperature.”

In the next few weeks, Luongo said, the company will be rolling out the next generations of the IQOS device. The new Edmonton store was built with those products in mind in how products are displayed and explained. 

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Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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