November 2014

How Many Vape Shops Are There in the U.S.A.?

Washington State. Head shops have been around since the ‘60s and they offer vaping and e-cigs because, like smoke shops, they may have a captive and loyal audience.

E. C-Stores, or Convenience Stores: These are the 7-11’s, Circle K’s, AM-PM mini markets, and a host of other national and regional shops. These are stores you rarely are in for more than 10 minutes. You fill up with gas, grab a pack of e-cigs, or now, possibly liquids, maybe a Milky Way bar or a Slurpee and you’re on your way. They know little to nothing about the products and are a pure point of sale, but their sheer numbers make them noteworthy and a growing influencer.

F. Retail Drug and Food Stores: These are stores you go in to for shopping, maybe for food, maybe to fill a prescription, get some antiperspirant and personal products and “Hey, there’s some juice! Let me try one of those and might as well throw in a starter kit, too.” You may spend more time in this type of location but not as much as …

G. Mass Market Retailers: These are the big boys strictly in terms of physical size and stature in the business world. Costco sells e-cigs, as does Wal-Mart and Target stores plus many regional chains. Vaping products and liquids are just starting to intrude here and will be more prevalent asm time goes by.

What did I miss? The guy selling stuff from his trunk? Once upon a time they WERE a vape shop, but now they are pretty much extinct.

What about online and shopping carts? For this purpose and body count I’m excluding them since there is no way to get any type of definite numbers for them. They are physical locations but rarely are considered “retail.”

With all that being said, what do you think? Is there anyone we forgot?

When you ask the question, “How many Vape Shops are there?” as you can see, there are many answers and they can all be right. If we count the “A” Vape Shop category, about 6,000-7,000, but if we add in all these others you may hit the number you sometimes hear mentioned, about 35,000.

That is a lot of locations but still has a long way to go to come close to maxing out. CVS drug stores stopped selling cigarette and tobacco products, and e-cigs got into that mix as well.

The numbers will change but gradually and consistently go up and guaranteed, when we come back next year with Vape Directory 2015, I predict the numbers will be higher.



Words and photo by Norm Bour

You have asked yourself that question
as have people all over the country. That
question started me on my journey as a
consultant in this industry in 2013 and
kept me up countless nights. Looking
back just more than a year ago (or longer) no one really had any ideas as to the “how many?” question, but as this industry grows and matures, some metrics and resources are growing along with it.

Before we get into the “how many” we really should define
the WHAT: WHAT is a Vape Shop? What do they look like,
and what are their characteristics? With that said I structured what I call The Definitive Guide to Vape Shops. See if you agree or not.

A. Vape Shops: These are pure focused shops dedicated
to newbies, offering starter kits, hardware, e-liquids of
many types and flavors, usually a tasting bar, information,
support and hand holding. On the other end they cater to the experts and hobbyists who can tear apart a mod with eyes closed as though he or she was in boot camp dismantling an M-16 rifle. How many are there? Indications and directories available total about 6,000-7,000 TRUE Vape Shops. That number has come from multiple sources, and until anyone proves otherwise I’m going with it.

B. Smoke Shops: These started out as exclusive
stores catering to smokers and offered cigarettes and tobacco in all forms, all analog, and most, about 60-75 percent, are now adding vaping products to their list. They are usually light on knowledge and serve a captive audience that comes in for one thing and may leave with another. They would be heavier in the e-cig/closed system segment as opposed to the juice, but due to generous profit margins, that is shifting.

Many of them have a loyal following, so that helps the conversion to digital smoking products.

C. Hybrids: These are stores that offer vape products
but also sell other things. It could be a clothing store or
something not related to smoking or e-liquid markets at all.
They see an opportunity and are there strictly to offer products, period—just a point of sale. This also can include hookah lounges unless they strongly cater to the VTM, vapor/tank/mod market, and if half their revenue is generated by these products I would put them in category “B” with Smoke Shops.

D. Head Shops: You know what they are; we know what they are. Everyone knows, but for legal purposes they sell, “smoking devices” to be used for legal products only, i.e., no marijuana. Exceptions right now are Colorado and