So You Want to Open a Vape Lounge?
Entrepreneurs are cashing in big time, both on the web and in your hometown. Brick and mortar e-cig stores and vape lounges are opening up all over the place.
When the dust settles at the local vaping scene, who will be left standing? If you are thinking about opening a vape lounge, here is a reality check:
Why open a vape lounge?
If you’re considering opening a vape lounge, ask yourself why. If you’re just hoping to cash in on a growing industry, you are dooming yourself to fail from the start. Do you really know what you’re getting yourself into?
- Are YOU a vaper?
- Do you want to help others convert to a healthier lifestyle?
- Do you understand the products? Or…
- Are you willing to hire staff who does?
These are questions that could be asked of any start-up, but they are especially important to vapers. Why?
Consider your target customer
The vaping industry targets smokers. You are offering a possible solution to an unhealthy daily habit that has existed for 10, 20, 30, or more years. If a smoker walks into your store, odds are they have already tried other options and failed.
They are looking for help
This requires a certain amount of sensitivity and a true desire to help people. You have to be able to find a good fit for each individual through the products you offer.
The #1 complaint about brick and mortar vape shops is that the staff isn’t knowledgeable.
Most vapers I know are very passionate people, and they are enthusiastic about what they’re doing. Newbies don’t remain newbies for very long. Vapers self-educate, and quickly catch up on the technology and products. When that happens, they will ask themselves: Did XYZ Vape Shop really help me? Did they recommend the best products to meet my needs?
Far too often, the answer to that question is no. If you want to operate a successful vape lounge, make sure that your staff knows what they’re talking about.
Skip the house brand e-liquid
There is a huge profit margin on e-liquid, and most brick and mortar stores have their own house brand for this very reason. The only problem is, most house brands suck.
Yes, you will sell e-liquid by the gallon to newbies who don’t know any better. But again, self-discovery moves very quickly in the vaping industry. If you put a lot of stock in your e-liquid sales, just know that you probably won’t generate a dedicated customer base.
The e-liquid market is massive. It’s not even competitive, because there are so many options available. The DIY market also continues to grow at an alarming rate.
Instead of going through the hassle of investing in all of the equipment and hiring a mixologist, consider stocking popular e-liquid brands and/or brokering a deal with a local juice maker.
Simply opening your doors isn’t enough. If you want to open a successful vape lounge in today’s market, you need a space that your customers want to come back to. Four walls and some white paint isn’t going to cut it.
Vaping isn’t a product, it’s a lifestyle
You need to embrace that lifestyle. Vaping is outlawed in most public spaces, even pubs. If you create a space that vapers enjoy, they become loyal customers. More importantly, they will tell their friends.
There is a local vape shop that is less than one mile from my house, and another right down the road. I will bypass both of them, drive 30 minutes and fight traffic to get to my favorite place where the prices are higher. Why? Because it’s a cool place on the inside. It has personality.
The Catch-22 here is, don’t make it too comfy. Your focus should be getting new people in the door, not catering to cloud blowers. You don’t want your store to become a haven where vapers just hang out all day.
Think outside the box
If you really want to go above and beyond and set your self apart from the competition with your new business, consider the following:
- Offer classes (building coils, battery info, etc)
- Sell inexpensive tools for the rebuilders and tinkerers
- Other products like coffee, wine, or even food
- Get involved in vaping advocacy
Becoming a vaperpreneur isn’t difficult. There is huge demand, a guaranteed client base (40+ million smokers in the US), and currently no federal and few state regulations governing the industry. If you’ve got the capital, a vape business is about as close to a sure thing as you’re going to find.
Make no mistake, this isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” opportunity, either. That’s the problem a lot of vapers are seeing with their local B&M stores. The shingle has been hung, but there’s no life inside.
With new stores opening almost daily, there’s no reason why a customer shouldn’t just go down the street to your competitor.