A sign of a successful business and successful merchant is the ability to build not just a customer base but a community. For the past couple of years, merchants in the e-cigarette business have been doing just that. Vape shops—novelty stores devoted to e-cigarettes and vaporizers—have been springing up around the country at a prodigious rate. These shops don’t just offer a retail location, but serve as a hub for the growing vape community.
Smoke shops are not new; they have been around for decades, if not centuries. But, vape shops offer a new twist on the conventional model of a smoke shop. First, they cater exclusively to vapor-based clientele and products. Offering a range of products, from e-cigarettes to vaporizers for all sorts of users they try to be a one-stop shop for all vapor-based products. They offer starter kits and deluxe items as well as accessories, cleaning services, and repair that can be difficult to find for e-cigarettes ordered online.
Vape shops also try to offer a range of liquids and blends to offer customers a broad variety of flavors and nicotine levels. Of course, the quality of product has to be ensured by the merchant as this almost completely unregulated industry is still awaiting FDA oversight. Yet, the successful vape shops have merchants that are discriminating about the products they offer. Business owners characterize it as a critical aspect of running a successful vape shop.
Merchants aren’t stopping at their inventory though. Vape shops are becoming community hubs: a place to hang out and meet other people interested in vaping and to kill some time before shifts, class, or appointments. Vape shops are offering TVs, lounges, and even game systems for customers to use while visiting the shop. This shows a budding community within the growing industry.
Community has long been a staple of tobacco products such as cigarettes. Cigarettes can offer an ice-breaker for strangers, an escape from awkward social encounters, and an underlying connection that is valued to long-time smokers. While the lines between peer pressure and social environments can be debated, the fact vape shops are building on community as well as revenue indicates a commitment on the part of merchants to their customers.
The FDA has recently released a plan of oversight for e-cigarettes and vapor-based products. Barring major setbacks, the oversight is welcomed by merchants as this industry will gain some legitimacy. Merchants hope to shift misconceptions and negative perceptions about vaping as they continue to build community through their unique, inviting vape shops.