By 2025, the global vape industry is projected to be worth upwards of $61 billion. If you’d like to get in on that action by opening a vape shop, you’re in good company. You’re sure to face a lot of competition; however, your odds of success will be much higher when you properly educate yourself. Below, we’ll outline the basics of how to open a vape shop so you can hit the ground running on this endeavor.
This article focusses on the US market in particular so the rules and regulations will be different if you live in another country. The general principles though will be similar. Because vape and e-cigarette products are regulated in all countries we recommend you engage with a local lawyer to ensure that you are in full compliance with all applicable local laws.
1. Learn the Relevant Regulations
Since e-cigarettes face the same federal regulations as tobacco – and many state and local regulations are likely to be at play too – it is crucial to educate yourself about the regulations that are likely to affect the opening and operation of your vape shop.
On the federal level, e-cigarettes are subject to the same regulations as tobacco products. Therefore, all products must include clear health warnings. All vaping products are regulated by the FDA, and new regulations from that agency are expected to come into effect in 2022. Therefore, it is smart to act quickly – and to always stay abreast of the latest changes to federal regulations. The FDA website is a good source for up-to-date information regarding such laws.
Vape shops are also typically subject to various state and local regulations, and they can be even more complicated than those on the federal level. For example, many communities place restrictions on how close vape shops can be to things like schools and churches. State vaping laws can be even more restrictive than federal ones, so it’s crucial to stay on top of them. Good sources for such information include the CASAA, the SFATA and MuniCode, a website that lets you search local communities’ municipal codes.
Additionally, although there are no federal excise taxes on vape products, many states and municipalities enforce them – and they can be prohibitively expensive for brick-and-mortar vape shops. Minnesota, for example, charges an excise tax of 95 percent for vape products while Washington, DC, charges 70 percent.
Finally, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the licenses and permits that you may need to make your vape shop a reality in your selected community. The Small Business Administration, or SBA, is a good source for information regarding state licensing and permit requirements for various types of businesses. Note that if you are buying a location, you may need to acquire a certificate of occupancy, or CO. If you’re leasing, you’ll want to make sure that the CO for the site is valid for the operation of a vape shop.
2. Choose a Location
As with any brick-and-mortar retail business, the location of your vape shop will have a profound impact on its future success – or lack thereof. Aim for a location that offers 500 to 1,500 square feet of space. Make sure that it offers prominent signage and the appropriate design and layout for consistent branding. Finally, research local competition and act accordingly; the last thing that you want is to set up shop in an area that’s already overly saturated with such businesses.
3. Know the Costs of Opening a Vape Shop
Depending on the size, location and other variables of your planned vape shop, you can expect to part with anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 to get it up and running. If you decide to open a franchise, which includes benefits like a ready-made business model, marketing assistance and effective branding, you can expect to pay $10,000 to $20,000 more.
Costs that are associated with opening a vape shop include:
- 1 Rent – Leasing a location will likely cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 per month
- 2 Licenses and permits – Costs vary but can be considerable
- 3 Insurance – Expect to pay around $150 per month for the appropriate coverage
- 4 Payroll and taxes – Set aside around $3,700 per month for employees and taxes
- 5 Inventory – You will also need thousands of dollars to establish inventory. Expect to spend around $7,500 on e-cigarette kits and accessories; between $10,000 to $20,000 for miscellaneous vaping accessories and roughly $2,500 for a point-of-sale system.
Note that you will also need money set aside for marketing purposes. You can spend as much or as little as you like on marketing and your results will generally reflect your budget. You should expect to spend several hundred dollars a month at the very least to promote your shop when you first launch.
4. Choose the Right Products
The only way to run a successful local vape shop is by cultivating repeat business. This will only happen if people can rely on your shop for competitively priced yet high quality products. These days, when it comes to the devices themselves, Vaporesso and Renova are solid names to trust. As a vape retailer you will of course need to stock a range of brands so will need to do you research to find other suitably high quality products to carry as well.
5. Choose the Best Wholesale Company for Your Vape Shop
Although you can keep costs in check by buying directly from manufacturers in China, it may be easier and more affordable to identify three to five local wholesalers for your shop’s inventory. This way you will have fewer suppliers to deal with and they will all have some kind of local in-market presence. You will want to start out with an inventory of about 50 percent e-cig starter kits, about 40 percent mid-level kits and roughly 10 percent high-end hardware.
6. Know How to Effectively Promote Your Vape Shop
Federal laws make it extremely difficult to advertise vape products; Google and the other major search engines don’t allow such advertisements, either. Therefore, you need to rely on more creative ways of promoting your vape shop. You’ll want to stay up to date on the latest industry trends, so peruse sites like Instagram and YouTube for information, and consider attending trade shows and the like. Identify the traits of your ideal customer, and gear your marketing efforts toward that demographic. Set up a website – preferably with e-commerce capabilities – and be active on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to develop and maintain interest in your business.
7. Last Steps
Knowing what you now do about the basics of opening a vape shop, you are probably excited to get started. The most important thing of all is to lay the right groundwork, which means taking your time at first. As you get your business off of the ground and money starts rolling in, you will have the opportunity to grow and expand as you see fit – and you are sure to feel like you never work a day in your life as the owner of a popular vape shop!