The post-COVID economic recovery is supposedly well underway at this point. If you’re a vape shop owner, though, you could be forgiven for thinking that the recovery has yet to actually begin. As much as some aspects of the economy have improved in 2021, vape shops still face enormous challenges directly and indirectly related to COVID.
- At the beginning of the pandemic, consumers across the world shifted their buying habits and began buying almost everything online. As Amazon’s quarterly revenue will attest, that trend has not changed at all. People still buy as much as they can online and avoid unnecessary store visits as much as possible. That’s been extremely painful for vape shops because vaping supplies are so easy to buy online – and usually at lower prices.
- Everyone is buying more of everything online, and China is the producer of an enormous percentage of the world’s consumer goods. COVID emerged in China and halted much of the country’s production of consumer products for a portion of 2020. Even though production has largely caught up, shipping hasn’t. Popular Chinese-made vaping products that require frequent replacement – such as replacement pods and atomizer coils – are frequently delayed in shipping and don’t always make it to American vape shops in a timely manner.
- At the beginning of 2021, a new federal law went into effect that subjected all vape shops shipping products across state lines to the requirements of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act. In addition, that same omnibus spending bill directed the United States Postal Service to stop shipping vaping products to consumers. In short, vape shops have to contend with enormous difficulties right now if they want to sell products online.
- Even before the pandemic, teen vaping and EVALI had given vaping a load of bad press that stifled the growth of the industry as a whole. As much as people – and even the government of the United Kingdom – attempted to get the word out that EVALI has nothing to do with legal nicotine e-liquids, most people incorrectly thought nicotine e-cigarettes were to blame for the lung illness. The vaping industry still has yet to resume its former growth.
You’re here because you’re well aware of the challenges that COVID has caused for vape shops in 2020 and 2021. The real question is this: What are you going to do to survive this thing and come out the other side with the best possible chance for success? Here are some ideas that can help.
Add an E-Commerce Component to Your Website
If your vape shop continues to suffer from a lack of in-store traffic, the best way to get your revenue back to where it should be is by selling online. If you’re outside the United States, that’s relatively easy; all that you need to do is launch a Shopify website or add WooCommerce to your existing site and start selling. If you’re in the US, though, you’ve got the PACT Act and the vape mail ban to worry about. When the USPS finishes implementing the vape ban – which could happen any day – your only option for shipping vaping products within the US will be to use private couriers. In addition, complying with the PACT Act requires resources that you may not be able to spare.
One thing to keep in mind about the PACT Act, however, is that it only applies to companies shipping vaping or tobacco products across state lines. It may, therefore, be possible to sell online and offer local delivery within your city – or to contract with a private courier and deliver only within your state – without needing to fulfill the requirements of the PACT Act. As with everything else in this incredibly complicated industry, though, it’s always wise to consult with your legal counsel to ensure that you are in compliance with the law.
Branch Out into New Product Categories
If your vape shop only sells nicotine vaping products, this is an excellent time to consider branching out into new product categories that offer synergistic compatibility with your core product offerings. Lux Vapes has done well, for instance, by offering a large selection of dry herb and wax vaporizers along with the accessories for those products. CBD is another option that’s proven very popular among people who buy from vape shops.
These two product categories provide a significant advantage that nicotine products lack in that, at this time, they are only lightly regulated at the federal level. Neither dry herb vaporizers nor CBD are covered under the PACT Act, with the only exception being CBD e-liquids that are intended for vaping. As always, you should consult with your attorney to ensure that you’re in compliance with all applicable laws. It should, however, be possible to sell CBD and dry herb vaping products online – shipping products by mail and not worrying about the requirements of the PACT Act – while selling nicotine vaping products only in your brick-and-mortar vape shop.
Encourage Customers to Change Their Product Choices
With all of the major difficulties currently facing vape shops in 2021, it almost adds insult to injury that some products have proven incredibly hard to get on a consistent basis. E-liquid isn’t usually too hard to get because most of it is produced domestically, although shipping delays do still occasionally happen. Pods and coils for the most popular pod systems and vape tanks, however, sometimes still prove elusive because of the ongoing difficulties with getting products out of China.
If your vape shop doesn’t have the products that customers want, they’ll go elsewhere. In some cases, the ongoing product shortages may cause some people to conclude that vaping is just too much trouble. You can avoid that situation by encouraging your customers to change their product preferences in two ways.
- If you’re having difficulty keeping popular e-liquids in stock, you can seek out alternative products that taste similar and recommend those e-liquids as alternatives. You can also encourage your customers to switch to lower-output devices like pod systems. Customers who switch to higher-nicotine vaping setups won’t need to stock up as often, which means that you’ll be less likely to run out of the flavors that people want.
- If you’re having difficulty keeping coils and pods in stock, you can encourage customers to switch to rebuildable atomizers. No matter what happens with shipments of goods from China, wire and cotton remain readily available.
Jason Artman is the owner and author of eCig One. A professional freelance writer and SEO consultant with more than a decade of experience, Jason works with vaping companies around the world to increase their targeted web traffic and improve their revenue.