During the first decade of the vaping industry in the 2010s, running a vape shop gained a reputation for being a business opportunity with great potential for profitability. That’s still the case in 2023. But, vape shop owners face challenges today that they didn’t face a decade ago. Meeting those challenges costs money. Furthermore, spending that money eats into your profits. Thus, making it difficult for a vape shop to maintain solid financial footing.
So, are vape shops profitable in 2023? The answer to that question is definitely “yes.” But, before you spend your life savings to jump into the vaping industry, you need to understand the significant challenges that vape shop owners face today. These are the challenges that make it difficult to run a profitable vape shop.
Before you can even begin to think about opening a vape shop, you need to find a location for it. That’s not easy in most places because even a medium-sized city is likely to have at least one vape shop already. If your city isn’t already served by a vape shop, you’ve found a golden opportunity. In most cases, though, opening a vape shop will mean that you’ll have to compete with the operations that already exist in your city. To do that, you’ll have to either charge lower prices than your competitors or spend more money on marketing. Either way, it’s going to eat into your profits.
Purchasing your inventory might be the biggest investment that you’ll have to make if you want to own a vape shop – and unless you’re a vaper yourself, it might be difficult for you to comprehend exactly how many products you’ll need to stock in order to remain competitive. You’ll need to carry a wide variety of disposable vapes and refillable vape kits. Additionally, you'll need to carry the replacement pods and coils for all of the vape kits in your store. You’ll need to stock several different vape juice brands. Then, for each of those brands, you’ll need to carry the full range of flavors and nicotine strengths.
All told, purchasing the inventory for a vape shop can cost many thousands of dollars. To make matters worse, trends in the vaping industry can change seemingly overnight. When a hot new product comes out, you’ll need to carry it or risk losing business. On the other hand, a product that used to be popular can suddenly become unfashionable. If that happens, it could render your investment in that product unprofitable.
It’s common for states to earn much of their revenue through the taxation of tobacco products. At this point, though, over 20 million people in the United States have switched from smoking to vaping. That represents a significant reduction in revenue from tobacco taxes, so many states are now beginning to tax vaping products as well. If your state already taxes vaping products, people have become accustomed to paying the higher prices. However, if your state doesn’t tax vaping products yet, though, it might do so in the future. That’s a risk to your vape shop because a new tax might reduce your customer base by causing some vapers to revert to smoking.
The existence of fake products is one of the biggest issues facing the vaping industry today. Over the past few years, more than two million fake Elf Bar vapes have been discovered and confiscated by law enforcement officers – and Elf Bar is just one brand out of many. Fake vapes are produced by the millions, and they end up everywhere. If any of those products end up in your vape shop, astute consumers will find out, and your company’s reputation will be harmed as a result. Choosing a reliable supplier is extremely important.
Many vape shops sell products within their local communities only. If you want to sell products online and ship them outside your state, though, that introduces additional challenges because shipping products across state lines means that you’ll have to comply with the PACT Act. Your shipping costs will be higher than they would be for most types of products. This is because you can’t ship vape gear through the standard mail. You’ll also be required to collect the appropriate taxes and report your sales totals to the taxation authorities in each of the states to which you ship. Complying with the PACT Act is a major expense that’s unavoidable if you want to sell vaping products online.
If you want to run a vape shop, you’ll need a way to collect payments from your customers. That means you’ll need to have a merchant account. The challenge here is that credit card processing companies generally don’t want to handle transactions for vaping products. This is because transactions for those products are deemed to have a higher-than-normal risk of fraud and chargebacks. Vape shop owners are almost always required to have high-risk merchant accounts for that reason. Unfortunately, that means that you’ll pay more per transaction than most other types of retailers. You may also pay an elevated monthly insurance premium.
Running any type of retail business means that you’ll need to maintain a storefront and hire employees. Chances are that you’ve seen a lot of “help wanted” signs in your neighborhood over the last couple of years. Everyone is having trouble finding good help these days, and that’s true of vape shops as well. Employees who understand vaping and know how to sell the products are hard to find. They won’t stick around unless they’re fairly compensated.
In addition to your employee costs, you’ll also have to think about product displays if you want to own a vape shop. In many states, you’re required to display vaping products in locked glass cabinets. Because of that requirement, your costs for product displays may be higher than they would be for other types of retailers.