The company confirmed plans late on Monday evening, following the Prime Minister's announcement, by informing all staff of its decision.
Doug Mutter, Director of Compliance and Manufacturing said: “We are disappointed with the lack of clarification from the Government regarding where vaping retailers stand. Other European nations had recognised the work vaping specialists do in reducing the stress on health services and kept the local stores open. We had expected this to be the case and had begun investing in new processes in order to manage our business in such an environment.”
“However, without sufficient clarification and in the interest of keeping our staff and customers safe we have taken the decision to close all 155 stores as of Tuesday for the next three weeks.”
“The firm had expected that the UK would follow the likes of Spain, Italy and Switzerland in allowing vaping retailers to remain open in an attempt to prevent smokers from moving back from vaping to smoking.”
Doug continued: “We have been advised by both the UK Government and WHO that smoking has a hugely detrimental impact when coupled with COVID-19. We as business have a duty of care to help people protect themselves, and to ensure our staff and customers are kept safe.”
“That is why we have so far kept all of our stores open. We work in conjunction with the NHS on a number of partnerships across the UK, so we are well aware of the pressure they are currently under, which is growing day by day.”
"Our staff have been absolutely incredible, and it is a credit to them that we have been able to help tens of thousands of customers during this very difficult time. VPZ's role over the last few weeks was to take the stress off the NHS by helping smokers, who are some of the most vulnerable people to COVID-19, to quit the habit. It has not always been an easy job, but our staff stepped up and can be rightfully proud of the role they have played."
The company has pointed customers and smokers to its website where it will be operating as 'business as usual' for any customer looking for vaping products.
Doug said: “Whilst the stores being forced to close is a blow to many customers who enjoy our personalised in-store service, our online presence will be running as normal where customers can buy and get products delivered straight to their door."
“Staff communications was sent on Monday evening confirming the move and advising all mainline staff that they will be paid their full salary for the duration of their time off.”
“We know that this is a stressful and difficult time for all our staff so rather than wait for the Government to confirm plans we have taken the decision to close all stores and went above and beyond the Government’s 80% commitment and ensure our staff are paid 100% of their salary during the three week lock-down.”
“We will stand-by our staff during this difficult time.”
- VPZ Online – [link]