You see more and more of them every day. Vape Shops are opening in towns big and small, catering to the ever-growing market of e cigarette users and aficionados. It has prompted a good amount of vapers to start their own businesses, and lead others wondering if now is the time to open a vape shop. It just might be, as long as you understand the current climate, and what it takes to run a proper e cigarette store.
There are several key elements that make up the best vape shops we have ever had the chance to visit. If you can hit the ground running with these elements in place, you have a much better chance at staking your claim in the vapor industry.
Employ the Right Staff
Frontline employees are key to success at any business. At a vape shop it is crucial to make the right hires. First off it makes sense to hire actual vapers. It sounds obvious but I have had conversations with multiple counter people and sales clerks who don’t seem to know much about vaping. Your staff has to be able to break down the different types of electronic cigarettes. Would a cig-a-like be best for a particular customer or should they start off with a personal vaporizer? If they know they want a personal vaporizer will a basic eGo-style device do the trick or are they ready for an e cig that lets them control air intake and battery power? A staff that knows the products, the brands, and the flavors is key. This is what we would look for first, and then thin the herd of applicants from there by focusing on personality, customer service skills and retail experience. One thing to watch out for is what I like to call a “vapor snob.” They may be highly knowledgeable about vapor, but could end up being rude to a newbie. One employee not taking the time to educate and really help a newbie could cost you a lifelong customer. This is an issue that I have encountered more than once. The right staff will increase sales while helping to create an environment where vapers feel welcomed and actually enjoy spending their money.
Carry A Broad Selection of E Cigarettes
This is another one that sounds basic, but isn’t. How many times have you walked into a brand new vape shop, just to see a couple of brands of cig-a-likes and one or two options for super basic PVs? It sounds like a good idea to stick to that one small distributer with cheaper products at first. When you start losing out on sales due to lack of inventory it will not. Contact the larger vapor brands and ask for bulk pricing. This will give you brand names that people have heard of off the bat. You should also look to bulk buy from actual device manufacturers. With the internet this is easier than ever. Websites like Alibaba.com (not an endorsement ) have popped up allowing business owners to deal directly with manufacturers. You will have to investigate each product and make the deal yourself, but will have access to a far larger pool of manufacturers and products, with fewer middle men. We suggest stocking multiple options for: cig-a-likes, PVs, box mods, and if you can find them throw in a couple of higher end mods. If you are experienced, or a little more daring, you may want to look into mixing custom juices onsite. The margins will be in your favor and you can attract that many more vapers. Designate an area in the shop, ensure that it is hygienic and that all components are stored correctly, and add to your offerings. Having a full spectrum of products at a variety of price points will let you serve vapers of all levels.
Know the Law
E cigarette laws are changing at local and national levels. Even as bans pop-up many municipalities seem to still allow vaping in vape shops, even though it may no longer be allowed in an office building or bars. This is a huge opportunity, as owning an establishment that allows vapers to congregate and try new things in a town where they are otherwise banished to the sidewalk is a great way to attract business. Right now most vape shops are not required to have a special license. Look into local laws to see if you need the same level of licensing as a tobacco shop in order to do business. Even if you do not, keep in mind that impending regulations from the FDA may soon change this factor nationwide. Planning now to spend the time and money to acquire proper licensing is a must. There’s no point in opening a shop if you won’t be able to pay for the necessary license and permits in the next year. Another potential upside to a bric and mortar vape shop is the chance that the FDA bans online sales. The White House removed language that did this from the FDA’s original proposal, but that does not mean it will not beaded back in. While losing online sales would be detrimental to vapers, it presents a distinct opportunity for retail location. Also, getting in before regulations come down may allow you to be “grandfathered” in to certain abilities and distinctions that will not be available after laws are formed.
Pick the Right Spot
Okay, so you know you probably shouldn’t open up next to a school. But where should you open up?
Strip malls in residential sectors aren’t the most glamorous location, but they do provide you with a good amount of people who might rather shop with you than drive a further distance. They also allow you to target customer that reside near your business via mail-outs, online ads, and billboards. If you go the residential route aim for a location on a main road with good visibility. You don’t want to lose out on business to a convenience store just because they are easier to get to. On the other side of the coin you may opt to target an entertainment district. If you are in the center of an area that bustles with diners, partiers, and young people you can pick up a good amount of business based on location alone. You will get traffic from all over your area, which will help to spread the word around town. You will also have access to larger amounts of smokers who may pop in after dinner or before they go out looking for something different. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose a club district over a residential area it will behoove you to keep later business hours. Closing at 9PM Thursday, Friday and Saturday could be very costly in an entertainment district. In either case you should look for a space that accomodates both retial counters and lounges. Shops that have an area for vapers to gather and relax succeed in building relationship much more quickly than small shops. Your location will heavily affect your overall business strategy.
Like any business, opening a successful vape shops takes a good plan. You need knowledgeable, dedicated staff, the right location, and a good selection of products. If you are planning to open up in a small, hardly trafficked strip mall that offers low rent, and sell the least expensive devices that you can find you won’t be in business for long. Far too many people open exactly this type of shop and fail. If you are ready to create an environment that really caters to vapers, and has great selection then now may be the perfect time to get started.