FOR A MEAGER $34.99, any vaper over 18 can purchase one of Juul Labs’s metallic e-cigarette devices. For a not-so-meager $5,000, that vaper, should he be so inclined, could slot his nicotine conveyor into a glittering 18-karat gold case from Florida jeweler Miansai. With sharp lines reminiscent of a vintage Cartier lighter, the gold shell is certainly elegant, but even Miansai owner Michael Saiger finds it’s curious that someone (it has sold 15 of these cases) would slip a four-figure case over an inexpensive Juul. “I do think that it is kinda funny,” said Mr. Saiger.
Yet increasingly, as luxury e-cigarette accessories waft into the market, that’s the sort of thing puffers are doing. M.Cohen, a Los Angeles company, sells a made-to-order $1,000 sterling silver vape case on a chain, equipping vapers to wear a Juul like a necklace (or a pacifier, depending on your perspective). New York brand Degs & Sal peddles a relatively accessible $120 sterling silver case while Vianel, also of New York, markets cases in exotic leathers like lizard, ostrich and crocodile that it claims are real for as little as $30 to $50.
The growth of such accessories has mirrored that of the vape industry itself. Last December, Juul Labs notched a $38 billion market valuation and a 2018 Gallup poll found that one in five Americans under 30 vape nicotine at least occasionally. Juul Labs, a four-year-old company, is leading the nicotine-pod market with a compact stick that, to the chagrin of many parents, could easily mistaken for a USB stick. The Juul device is fairly plain, and comes in just two underwhelming colors: slate and silver. Its nicotine pod competitors like Smok and Uwell are similarly understated.
Since launching them last May, New York’s Degs & Sal has sold “well over” 500 Juul-sized cases.
This creates a conundrum for millennials like Hayley Grossman, 29, who prioritize individuality. “Anything personal is definitely a step above,” said Ms. Grossman, who works in social media and splits her time between London and Tel Aviv. She was a cigarette smoker for 14 years before picking up a Juul last year. Problem was: She kept confusing her Juul with those of her friends. Three months ago, she bought two Vianel cases in crocodile leather and snakeskin, each stamped with her initials to customize her nicotine companions.
Degs & Sal founder, Eddie Shamie, 24, a pod-a-day Juul smoker (roughly equivalent to a pack of cigarettes a day), similarly felt the need to distinguish his nicotine contraption from those of his peer group. He used to scratch his initials into the Juul which became “really ugly over time.” So, this past May, he designed and marketed an Italian-made, sterling silver, Juul-sized case. His idiosyncratic accessory struck a chord: To date, he has sold “well over” 500 cases at $120 a pop.
If you want to differentiate your vape-sicle, there are cheaper ways. You can log onto Amazon right now and purchase an adhesive skin printed with the New York Yankees logo or a version of the Mona Lisa for less than $10. Those look rather pedestrian, though, and as Carol Crofton, a 22-year-old student in Raleigh N.C. and a Juul user for two years, found, they peel off quickly. She upgraded to a Vianel case marked with her “CC” initials, which she said “just looked really cool.”
Vianel’s exotic leather slip cases can be personalized with a customer’s initials or emoji.
Some of the cases also pop particularly well on social media. When Sofia Richie, a 20-year-old American model with nearly five million Instagram followers, posted a photo of herself clutching one of Vianel’s orange leather cases, the company sold around 400 cases in one day. Vianel claims to have sold “tens of thousands” of cases since launching them in March 2018. In April of this year, it inked a deal with Greenlane, a Nasdaq-listed vape accessories supplier, to bring its products to about 8,000 stores nationwide.
Juul Labs does not sanction these third-party cases which, according to a statement from the company’s spokesperson Ted Kwong, “have obvious, if not deliberate, youth appeal.” The owners of Degs & Sal, Miansai and Vianel all feel they are not enticing people to take up vaping. “The people that are gonna smoke are gonna smoke and we’re not persuading them to do anything. I think it’s just more of an accessory for them,” said Miansai’s Mr. Saiger. Added Andrew Brooks, the owner of Vianel, “We’re just catering to the market.” And though the honchos at Juul Labs don’t like it, the appetite for third-party vape accessories continues to grow and grow.
Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8