There always is something new in this very exciting vape market. Whether you are a novice, just thinking about getting into the vape space, or maybe you are an old pro with a whopping couple of years under your belt, there always are new ways to (re)invent and market yourself. We get input and feedback from all over the United States and from overseas and wanted to share some observations and insight you can use.
Many things come in sets of “threes:”
1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner
2. The three primary colors of the spectrum
3. The Three Stooges!
But seriously, since I have been in too many vape shops to count I have identified what it takes to create a successful business. And, it is not always about money. Or location.
In our home turf of Orange County, Calif., we take out of town clients in for training to different shops in the area. After visiting many we have narrowed our tour down to three, and we are giving our opinion on two that are doing it really well and one that is missing the mark.
One of the current challenges in the marketplace is locations, since many cities have too many vape shops and others don’t want them. This has become a huge problem and in many cases a great location doesn’t always make you a great shop, even though you may be profitable.
Profile #1: Vintage Vapours, Lake Forest, Calif. (Rob Zahr) age 43
Opened: November, 2013
Lines of juice: more than 50 brands, which varies, with more than 250 varieties
First business: This venture is a partnership of three friends, two brothers and Zahr, a successful entrepreneur in the credit card processing industry plus ownership in a real estate related company.
They did not start Vintage for the money, but Zahr smoked up to two packs a day for decades, and in 2009 he was introduced to his first e-cig, and he has not looked back.
All three owners have a deep entrepreneurial history, which is a significant advantage in this new and risky vape space. They use all hand-made components, and upon entering this location you can see that they spent a shit load in design and décor. Zahr said that they were not creating a decor, but were creating environment, and he is spot on. The interior design is part of you and who you are and the type of experience you want to create. It is not always necessary to go into six-figure budgets but to have adequate money and spending it wisely, pays dividends.
What did Vintage really do right? No. 1: it hired the right people; No. 2: it established policies on customer service; No. 3: the store and the décor.
What should they have done differently? “Happy as is!” was Zahr’s reply.
Advice to those opening shop:
1. Don’t take on more than you can handle; do what
you can, don’t borrow money!
2. Stay realistic in your goals.
3. Grow through great service and go from there.
4. Stay true to brands, avoid clones (they carry none).
5. Join the vape community; advocate and support each
at all sectors.
This vape shop is a true showplace, one I take all our clients to visit. It is located in a high traffic shopping center on one of the busiest roads in Orange County.
Profile #2: E-Cig Emporium, Irvine, Calif. (Paul Gaudreau), age 50
Opened: Thanksgiving, 2013. They were turned down by four landlords, which delayed their opening by several months.
Lines of juice: 16 brands, 200 flavors; goal is 275 flavors, reaching 20 brands. They suggest NOT buying entire lines, but find the top sellers and just get those. First business: Gaudreau had a successful consulting company servicing Fortune 500 businesses that he sold for big dollars, and he retired at 45. He realized he was bored, and as a long-term smoker he was introduced to vaping. He also owns a retail hobby store in Orange County.
What did he really do right? Gaudreau said that he created an image and brand that made anyone feel comfortable. His location is unique since he is amongst several large office buildings and caters to white collar clientele. Gaudreau was committed to a location in another city, signed a lease, and found out before he took over that the city would NOT permit it. He dodged a bullet by a close call.
What should Gaudreau have done differently? The timing to open during the holidays was not planned and wished he had not done so.
Advice to those opening shop:
1. Be sure the city you wish to operate in allows it.
2. Use money wisely. Gaudreau did a lot of work himself,
did flooring, $17K build out, $40K inventory.
3. Probably spent 20 percent TOO MUCH on inventory.
4. His guide: $12K juice, $8K in hardware.
5. Don’t need to spend a lot of money on inventory and
here’s his nicotine suggestions: (2) zero nic, (6) 3 nic,
(6) of 6 nic, (6) of 12, (2) of 18, NO 24. These numbers
reflect a pattern we notice as well.
He also completed a 35-page business plan that was submitted to the landlord. That allowed his lease approval, but I do not advocate you share your business plan with anyone, and in many cases it may be highly speculative.
Profile #3: a vape shop in a great beach community
Opened: Spring, 2013
This little shop is about 1200 sq. ft. and has a comfortable feel about it, but the branding and messaging is a jumbled mess. They have a decent line of products, not as much hardware as they should, but there is no cohesiveness or efforts made to make the customer feel comfortable. It is eclectic, and not in a good way, with random posters, signs, décor, furnishings, display cases, etc. It’s light and bright and in a great location near the beach, but after taking many clients in, all left with the same thoughts: Something just wasn’t right.
They cater to the young surfer and beach crowd, but with just a few little tweaks they could make this a kick-ass location that could improve their revenue significantly.
Where do you fit in? What is unique about your location or the one you dream about? THIS is the most critical step in advance of making any plans or commitments.
Continued success in the vape space!.