Leading e-cigarette manufacturer RELX opened its first flagship store in China this month equipped with facial recognition cameras that would alert staff when a suspected underaged person enters the store.
The deployment of these cameras is part of the company’s Project Sunflower scheme, which prevents underage access and use of e-cigarettes by minors. Under the scheme, customers undergo another layer of automated verification to ensure a match between them and the ID presented when making a purchase.
Project Sunflower is already being implemented nationwide, with RELX aiming to install the system in 100 stores within the next three months and across all RELX stores within seven months. Under an unwavering penalty system, any retailers caught selling products to minors are set to be fined RMB 200,000 for first-strike offences, with the possibility of total suspension of business in the event of future strikes.
“The flagship store demonstrates Project Sunflower’s central role in RELX’s retail division,” said Jiang Long, co-founder and head of sales. “As a visionary company, RELX is prepared to shoulder the responsibility of blazing the trail in tech-enabled social responsibility.”
Founded in January 2018, RELX is Asia's leading e-cigarette company geared towards empowering adult smokers through technology and design, ethically. RELX develops its cutting-edge e-cigarette products at its R&D centre in Shenzhen, China.
Immersive shopping experience
The newly opened flagship store occupies 140 sqm space in Shanghai’s bustling central business district. It features a brand experience area, a consumer education area, an interactive zone, and device engraving services.
“Consumers nowadays prefer immersive shopping experiences, and we want to make this flagship a place where we can not only better communicate with them about our product and values but also better understand their needs. We’re always on the lookout for ways to better serve our consumers,” said Wang Tao, head of RELX’s new retail business. “
He added that RELX will launch stores in areas of interest in various cities, such as Beijing’s 798 art hub and Shenzhen’s Haigangcheng, to provide avant-garde experiences to consumers.
RELX only ventured into the retail business in January last year and now operates over 1,400 RELX stores across 300 cities in China.
With the opening of its new flagship store in Shanghai, the company also announced its intention to invest RMB 500 million in establishing 10,000 stores globally over the next three years.
As China’s biggest e-cigarette brand holding a market share above 60%, the company is poised to strengthen its lead by accelerating its retail business.
“RELX is investing heavily in breakthrough technologies to enhance franchisees’ profit margins and increase consumer loyalty during the course of its brick-and-mortar expansion,” Long said. “As always, our focus will remain on preventing minors from using e-cigarette products and leading the path of innovation for the entire industry by developing advanced retail technology.”