Are you an entrepreneur wondering how to open a vape shop? Your timing could not be better. Perhaps you have seen a lot of vape shops in your area and may be thinking the niche is already saturated. Well, maybe this will change your mind.
Wells-Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog has been tracking the vapor industry for several years. She is the industry’s go-to resource for business forecasts. Her latest analysis indicates an expectation that the vapor industry is going to double in the next three years.
It is not too late to get into the game. The industry is both stable and steadily growing. FDA regulations of e-cigs may be changing toward a more open posture. If that happens, the growth could be even bigger.
Vaping Franchise or Open Your Own Vape Shop
There are two roads to opening a vape shop. If you have sufficient financing, you could opt for the vaping franchise model. That has pros and cons. The pros are that you get a ready-made business model, they show you how to open a vape shop, marketing assistance, and brand recognition. The cons include extra costs and less control.
The other option is your own independent vaping store entirely under your control. You build your own brand and reputation choosing your own product inventory and control marketing. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll be selling franchises of your shop. Why not think big?
Federal, State, and Local Vaping Regulation
Before you can get into the physical details of how to start a vape shop, you need to know the rules. The federal regulations are pretty straightforward. It is the state and local regulations that vary from state to state and city to city. For example, there are current laws in some cities that state you can’t open a vape shop near a school or park. In fact, many cities across the country are considering similar regulation.
One of the most significant considerations when thinking about how to open a vape shop is the level of taxation in your area. Some states have excessive taxation levels that have rendered brick and mortar vape shops at a disadvantage to compete at all with online prices. Ultimately, you will have to do some homework to understand the laws and regulations that apply to your chosen location.
Financing A Vape Shop
You are going to need access to capital and financing. If you go the franchise route, you will need to have money on hand and prove that you have access to $100 K or more. An independent vape shop can have lower startup costs, but you will be building a business from scratch.
If you don’t have enough capital to open a vaping franchise, that does not mean that your dream is over. Far from it. You might qualify for a subsidized SBA loan with your local bank. Or, if you have good credit and access to $15,000 in capital, you may qualify for financing from Ventury Capital, a company that has helped launch several vape shops. There are examples out there of people starting a vape shop with as little as $25,000. If you go the independent route, all you need is a business license, tax ID, location, POS system, and some inventory to get started.
Take some time and explore all of your financing options. You don’t want financing payments to eat up all of your profits when you are starting out. If you are building a vape shop business from scratch, it is likely that in the initial phase you will need all the cash flow possible to re-invest in inventory and promotion.
Where To Get Vape Shop Inventory
You might think that if you buy directly from the manufacturer in China you’ll be cutting out the distributor’s share and getting a better price. I can save you the effort right now. You will not get the best price buying directly from the overseas manufacturer. Unless you buy in massive quantities, your best price on authentic product will come from the large vaping wholesale distributors. Especially for hardware.
At a minimum, you will want to carry the following products:
- Hardware including mods, tanks, and starter kits
- Replacement coils
- Vape batteries
- Battery chargers
You will be selling a lot of vape juice. If there is a vape juice company in your area that you like, you may get the best deal by going to them directly. The major distributors typically carry the leading national vape juice brands.
One example of an excellent wholesale distributor is Direct Vapor. They have a massive selection of hardware and vape juice lines. You will also see a large selection of regularly purchased items like vape batteries and replacement coils. Direct Vapor is a verified dealer for the leading imported vapor hardware as well as carrying in the range of 40 of the top e-liquid brands in the United States. You can manage your orders online. They ship fast and Direct Vapor has a low price guarantee.
Learn more about Direct Vapor Wholesale Here
Watch Out For Snake Oil
Once you open a vape shop and your name gets out there, you will start getting a whole lot of emails from no-name overseas manufacturers offering unbelievable wholesale prices. If the prices are unbelievable, don’t believe them. You are probably dealing with fake e-cigs. Your best bet for customer satisfaction is to work with authorized distributors selling authentic product.
Some of the counterfeit manufacturers will tell you they are selling “1:1 clones, just like the real thing”. If you want to take the risk that’s up to you. If you do decide to sell clones for lower prices, make sure your customers are aware they are getting a clone. If your customer does not know they are buying a clone, they will find out when they go home and check the authenticity code on their purchase. If they feel like you pulled one over on them, that could hurt the reputation of your vape store.
With that, we have given a rundown of some of the basics of how to open a vape shop. Based on information gathered from successful vape shop owners, we have put together a list of six steps to success.
How To Choose A Vape Shop Location
The first step in how to open a vape shop is actually three steps in one. Location, location, location! You have heard this before, and just as it is true for real estate, it is right for a retail business. How to identify that location will require market research. You’ll have to do some homework on this one. You will also have to make sure that your location meets the local state and municipal regulatory requirements. Those may vary significantly by state and city. If you are familiar with the area you have picked out, all the better
I spoke to some successful vape shop owners about how they chose a location. They reported that accessibility and visibility were crucial elements. You want people to be able to easily find you and for people driving by to recognize your business readily. Make sure you have clear, visible signage. One of the recommendations is a corner vape shop location that can be approached from two directions.
After you have the physical location selected, you then want to focus on how you present the location. An open, well lit, and comfortable space tends to be more inviting for walk-in customers.
Hiring Vape Store Employees
Your employees can make or break your business. It is very important that your staff be knowledgeable about vaping and the products. It is imperative that they know the rules and never sell to minors. No exceptions. Regulators are watching.
You want your staff members to be able to communicate with experienced vaping aficionados as well as someone who may be walking into a vape store for the first time. If possible, seek out employees who know and love vaping. Inexperienced staff should be trained thoroughly. All staff should obviously be honest, service oriented, friendly, and approachable.
Stock A Wide Range Of Products
Vape shop owners surveyed report that carrying a wide range of products enables them to serve a broader customer base. You might even want to consider adding vaporizers to your repertoire. Obviously, no vape shop can stock every product from every brand! But when you are thinking about how to open a vape shop keep in mind that vapers come in all shapes and sizes.
There are newbies, flavor chasers, cloud chasers, MTL vapers, drippers, and squonkers. You might even want to think about vaporizers. The list goes on. If you get too specialized in one aspect of vaping, you may end up having to send customers elsewhere to get what they want.
Remember, you are also competing with online vendors who most often can sell products for prices that brick and mortar retailers can’t match. Your advantage is convenience and personal service. A big part of that convenience is that customers can get what they want when they want it. Ideally, from you!
Watch Your MarkUps
The vaping industry is known for having excellent margins for retailers. You can enjoy very healthy margins, but it is advised not to get too carried away. If you offer high-end premium products, also stock more affordable lines. Have a vape juice line people can buy for about $10 to go along with your premium lines. Bear in mind that you are competing with lower online prices. Don’t get carried away with markups. It could work against you. Plus competitive prices and excellent service will get you great Yelp reviews.
Use Social Media To Promote Your Vaping Business
In this next section, we want to talk about how to open a vape shop leveraging social media. An active social media profile can be a big boost to your business. Social media is another venue where you can personally interact with potential customers. Using social media is also an excellent way to build some buzz for your grand opening.
Engaging potential vape shop customers on social media requires time and effort. Don’t just make a profile, add a daily post, and then ignore for the rest of the day. Don’t give a friend or relative a few bucks to make random social posts, instead make it one of your priorities. It’s important. Check in on your social media accounts regularly throughout the day. Answer questions and interact. Just avoid politics and religion! Keep it fun and vaping related.
Another social media tip that can help is to invest in a good digital camera. If your phone has a high-quality camera, that will work, too. Take good, clear, attractive pictures and share on your social media accounts.
Use Hash Tags! Yes, use hashtags on social media platforms that allow you to do so. How does a hashtag work? Well, if you use the hashtag #vapeshops users can actually search the hashtag #vapeshops which could prompt the social media’s platform to list your post.Some popular vaping hashtags are #vapeshops #vaping #vape #vapeon #ecigs
How to open a vape shop and get a boost from social media.
Here are the essential social media platforms:
- Yelp – Add your business to Yelp. The online form is basic and easy to fill out. You will get a follow-up email to “claim” your business and begin building your Yelp brand. Do not try and solicit fake reviews! You will get caught and it will hurt your business on Yelp. Earn excellent, genuine reviews from your customers.
- Facebook – Electronic cigarettes are considered tobacco products and you will not be able to pay to boost your Facebook posts. Be that as it may, Facebook is still an excellent location to interact with people. You can post new products, upcoming sales, new, and so on. Facebook is also a great place to build buzz for your grand opening!
- Twitter – Twitter just expanded the character limit from 140 to 280. That could be a benefit to a business. Tweet sales, promotions, images, and interact with vapers from all over the world.
- Instagram – Post attractive and interesting images to gain followers. Take pictures of your products, staff members having fun, happy customers blowing clouds (with their permission, of course).
- There are numerous other platforms where your vape shop can have a profile. More platforms evolve all the time. Watch for trends. Other platforms include LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.
Vape Shop Websites and E-commerce
When you first started thinking about how to open a vape shop, you were probably thinking of building a website. You definitely should. A website gives your business an online home and offers your customers a place where they can see your prices, inventory, and how to get in touch with you.
A basic website is one thing but what about an e-commerce website? An e-commerce site can take orders and securely manage payments online. You work hard but no matter what, you can only work so many hours a day. An e-commerce website is open every day of the year and works 24 hours a day.
Most vape shops do not have an e-commerce platform. The reason why is because e-commerce sites are typically very costly to build. You have to take responsibility for credit card information online; you need to build a site that can take orders, accept coupons, take shipping information and the list goes on. It’s complicated. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way you could build a website on a platform that did all of that work for you? Well, there is.
Fortunately for independent vape shop owners, there is a solution that could open the door to expanding your humble shop into a multi-dimensional business complimented with a full-fledged online retail operation. The site that can do this for you is called Shopify. With Shopify, you can build your website on their platform and they will take care of the details. You post your products, prices, and descriptions. Shopify is making e-commerce accessible to the small, independent business owner.
The Last Step To Opening A Vape Shop
Now you are ready for the last step of opening a vape shop. Have fun, work hard, be flexible to changes, and enjoy the ride.
Have fun because this is your business. You are in an industry that is growing and will continue to grow for years to come. That is the reason for confidence and possibility. You are your own boss. Living the dream. There will be bad days and doubt. That is inevitable. Believe that you can answer any challenge.
Work hard because it will be hard work! There will be no guarantees or short-cuts. It is a competition for vaping customers. So you have to compete.
Be flexible to changes because today’s hot product will be out of style in a few months. Stay on top of trends. Your customers can be an excellent resource for where the demand is trending at any given time.
Enjoy the ride! You have gone from wondering how to open a vape shop to having your own business. That’s a remarkable accomplishment.