Do you own a smoke shop? If you do, you’re probably losing customers in 2022. Here’s how to bounce back.
The last several years haven’t been great for traditional smoke shops. Cigars don’t sell for the same prices that they once commanded, and the demand for cigarettes isn’t as high as it once was because millions of former smokers have moved to alternative forms of nicotine consumption such as vaping.
If you’ve been running your smoke shop for long enough, you’ve already survived two customer mass exodus events – the first one happened in the late ‘90s when the cigar boom ended, and the second happened in the early 2010s when vaping started to become popular. Right now, you’re experiencing a third mass exodus due to the popularity of disposable vapes. Disposable vapes are cheap, convenient and very satisfying. Smokers have responded to them in a big way, and what you’re seeing now is just the beginning. If you don’t act now, you’re going to find that you no longer have much of a customer base at all within the next few years.
Modern nicotine use and smoking cessation have evolved into a continuum encompassing a wide variety of products both with and without nicotine. If you haven’t evolved your business to keep up with these changes, it’s time to start. Many of the various alternative nicotine products – and nicotine-free products for former nicotine users – on the market today are difficult to find in brick-and-mortar stores. By carrying those products, you can reclaim the customers you’ve lost by turning your smoke shop into a one-stop shop for the products that current and former nicotine users can’t find elsewhere.
These are the three types of products that your smoke shop needs to carry in 2022.
It’s impossible to own a tobacco business and not be aware of vaping. You’ve certainly felt the impact on your bottom line as millions of people around the world – and perhaps thousands in your city – have stopped buying tobacco products and now vape instead. The shelf space is limited in many smoke shops, though, and you may have been unsure about how to address the popularity of vaping. After all, you don’t necessarily want to add so many vaping products to your shop that you begin to have trouble finding room for displaying your core products – and until now, being a full-service vape shop has meant carrying devices, replacement coils, e-liquids and a variety of other accessories.
The fact that disposable vapes have become so popular recently, however, presents a good opportunity for you. Finding a good distributor is half the battle here; you need to find a seller that offers a good variety of wholesale vapes at fair prices, so you can get everything you need in one place and earn a tidy profit. Since disposable vapes are self-contained products that take up very little space, you can display a wide variety of them without losing the valuable space that you need for displaying your other products.
Alternative Nicotine Products
As a smoke shop owner, there’s no way that you’re not aware of vaping. It’s possible, though, that you’re not fully aware of the massive variety of alternative nicotine products that have entered the market over the past few years. There’s nicotine pouches, snus, toothpicks, gums and lozenges – and today’s alternative nicotine products are nothing like the foul-tasting gums and lozenges of the past. They’re made with synthetic nicotine, and they’re available in a wide variety of tasty flavors that users absolutely love. The problem for consumers, though, is that alternative nicotine products are typically hard to find in local stores.
There’s also a wide variety of products on the market today that simulate the act of smoking or using smokeless tobacco but don’t actually contain tobacco or nicotine. There are cigarettes filled with herbal smoking blends. There are also products such as mint snuff and stimulating pouches filled with things like coffee, cinnamon and black tea.
You’re really limiting your smoke shop’s potential if you focus solely on tobacco products because people are increasingly moving away from tobacco and even nicotine. By stocking all of the new tobacco alternatives in one place, you can make your store a one-stop shop for products that people normally have to go online to buy. Tobacco is increasingly becoming irrelevant to modern consumers, and smoke shops are quickly heading in the same direction. With this one change, you can make your smoke shop more relevant than it has been in years.
Dry Herb Vaporizers
If you own a traditional smoke shop, it’s likely that you have a somewhat older client base. While there are certainly cigar and cigarette smokers in the 50-and-under crowd, the fact is that a huge percentage of those people have either switched to tobacco-free alternatives like vaping or never started smoking in the first place. You need to do something to attract those people to your smoke shop, or you’re going to become irrelevant. We addressed that topic in the previous two sections of this article.
At the same time, though, it’s possible to go too far in your attempts to make your smoke shop more relevant to younger consumers. You might scare some of your existing customers away, for instance, if you started stocking a bunch of bongs and glassware and turned your vape shop into a head shop.
It’s possible, though, to find something of a middle ground by adding dry herb vaporizers to your smoke shop. Dry herb vaporizers aren’t just handy for cannabis users who want to avoid smoking and save their lungs a bit of wear and tear. Although it’s not a capability that vaporizer makers usually mention, dry herb vaporizers also work with loose-leaf tobacco – a product that you probably sell. You could position them as alternatives for smokers who can’t quit but don’t want to switch to e-liquid-based vaping products because they’d miss the authentic flavor of tobacco too much. A vaporizer heats the tobacco to the point at which the nicotine and aromatic compounds vaporize, but it doesn’t get hot enough to cause combustion. For some of your customers, it might be the perfect alternative to smoking.