By Norm Bour
I recently returned from a 19-day trip to Europe, where I spoke at VAPEXPO Amsterdam and Prague, and interviewed many in the business about the current and possible future of European markets. It was eye opening and one of great interest.
The World Is Flat
If we look back at the early days of vaping, it was slipshod and run by amateurs. Vaping was originally a Southern California phenomenon that quickly spread to major cities and eventually to smaller towns in America. It soon
migrated overseas and took off in Great Britain, and to some degree, other large European cities.
Today, as we face the FDA and the crisis associated with it, many are asking, “Are there better opportunities outside the U.S.?” I believe the answer is “yes,” but you must do your homework.
In 2005, Thomas L. Friedman published a landmark book, called “The World is Flat.” In it, he talks about how the world of business is now one world, as walls that were restrictive during the Cold War are now gone. The Internet
has created a worldwide community, and doing business overseas is almost as easy as doing business down the block.
That brings us to the international vaping scene.
The Learning Curve Of Event Promotion, Part I
Vaping events in Europe and China are not a new thing. For several years, major cities there have hosted them, bringing in sometimes massive crowds. In England, London and Birmingham have been major centers. Paris, has recently hosted two events over a two-week stretch. The Chinese market has continued to bring in massive crowds and offers several shows.
The question has been: What about the smaller countries?
Last year, there were events in Ireland, and this year in addition to the ones I attended, there were shows in Latvia, and Austria.
The vape space is unforgiving towards the inexperienced, and the VAPEXPO teams in Amsterdam and Prague are learning their lessons.
In Amsterdam, what was intended to be a major show turned out to be a private symposium with an impressive speaker list and about 50 attendees.
Ray Story, founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA) was a speaker at the event as was I. Also on stage was, American Vaping Association (AVA) founder Gregory Conley, Ron Tully, founder of Next Gen Labs and 30-year veteran of the tobacco industry, Chris Dodge, secretary and founder of The Global Vaping Association, and several others.
The small crowd was mostly European with a few Americans.
Voja Jurisic with EZ Cloud Company from Downey, CA, made the trek, and when asked, why? He said, “We came to find out firsthand about the potential of the European market and especially new regulations.
He continued, “Since we do mostly accessories, we wanted to deal with less restrictions.”
About 80% of their business is domestic and the rest resides in Europe.
An interesting presentation came from Michael Young, manager of two Vape Emporium locations in London. His company is a manufacturer and retailer and he brought up some interesting and timely information to consider now that England has left the European Union (EU).
“This new turn of events has opened up new opportunities,” Young said. “Many companies that were getting juice made in England may now consider going outside the country so that they can still be part of the EU.”
He added, “Our advantages of being under one umbrella with the EU just went away, so now we’d be considered a foreign country for trade purposes.” The Amsterdam event was small because the Ministry of Economic Affairs decided that since this event could draw non-professionals in the audience, it went against their Dutch Tobacco Advertising Ban. The net result was that a large affair with vendors and sponsors did not turn out that way.
The Learning Curve Of Event Promotion, Part II
The next event that VAPEXPO conducted was in Prague, Czech Republic just two weeks later. The venue was outside the city and had a small number of exhibitors and several hundred attendees over a two day period. Likewise, they brought a great selection of speakers, but this crowd was different.
Several of the speakers were from Russia, the Ukraine and Bulgaria. The opinions of these folks were positive and they predicted significant growth in the future.
The vendor selection was varied and included juice manufacturers from Russia, Malaysia, the U.S. and Canada.
Richard Ziske with VaporApe Canada, came to investigate the potential in Europe and the Baltic countries. As a manufacturer and distributor, he decided that business outside Canada was worth pursuing, but he was fearful of the U.S. market.
“Everything in Canada is good right now,” Ziske said, “and we think that Canadian juice will be popular in Europe. They seem to like everything unique and unusual, so we fit into that.”
He also believes that European juice is not up to the same standards as U.S. and Canadian products. “Most of their manufacturing quality is good, but their taste is not quite the same,” he concluded.
Alexander Zakharov from Vape Russia, was one of the speakers and shared his experience in the Russian market.
“Since we are not part of the EU, we hold a unique position,” Zakharov said. “We create products that conform to TPD standards, but yet we can sell to non EU countries and not have our hands tied. That includes Russia, itself.”
The world indeed, is flat, and there are few, if any boundary restrictions.
The future of the European market may be rosier than that of the U.S. Compared to the new FDA deeming regs, the TPD is much easier to work with, but there is also pushback from individual countries that affect online retailers. Spain, Italy and Greece now restrict online sales for products purchased outside their countries, and are joined by others countries as well. The future is now. If you want to expand your business I recommend you look overseas.
Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and creator of the VAPE U online programs. They offer services & resources for anyone in the vape space, including vape shops, online stores and e-liquid brands. He’s also the host of Vape Radio, the largest vaping radio show in the world with more than 1.3 M downloads. Norm interviews the masters of vape and thought leaders in the vape space. Contact him at norm@VapeMentors.com.