vape shop

Is Starting a Vape Shop a Good Business Decision in 2020?

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

One common trait among vape shop owners is that many of them are former smokers who have switched to vaping themselves. People often become quite passionate about vaping after quitting smoking with it. That naturally leads them to wonder if they might be able to forge careers for themselves in the vaping industry.

There are great potential profits in the vaping industry, despite its recent regulatory difficulties in the US. Moreover, there’s still plenty of room for new companies to jump in and participate.

Making your name as a manufacturer of vaping products isn’t easy from a legal compliance standpoint—not in the United States, at least. However, starting a vape shop is something almost any entrepreneur can do.


So, is it a good business decision to start a vape shop in 2020 and play in the same field as big brands like V2 Cigs? If you’re in the United States, the answer is unfortunately “probably not.” That is, unless you’re willing to have some flexibility in the types of products you sell.

This is because of recent FDA regulations regarding vaping products in the US. In fact, there is a chance you will suddenly find yourself without any products to sell in a few months. We’ll explain.

Why Is the Future Uncertain for U.S. Vape Shops?

Vape shops in the US face an uncertain future. This is because an important compliance deadline is quickly approaching for manufacturers in the vaping industry. By May 2020, every manufacturer of e-liquid and other vaping products in the US must submit applications to the FDA for permission to continue selling those products.

A pre-market tobacco product application (PMTA) must prove to the FDA that the product in question is beneficial to public health. Every vaping device and every e-liquid—in all flavors and nicotine strengths—requires a submitted application by May 2020. Otherwise, it will no longer be legal to sell in the United States.

A single PMTA can potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. This makes the PMTA process financially impossible for most smaller vaping product makers. Therefore, unless the legal requirements for vape manufacturers change in some way, most vaping manufacturers will likely go out business in May.

That could mean vape shops will have few vaping products left that they can still legally sell. That’s a very bad possibility for any vape shop that depends exclusively on vaping products for its revenue.

What If I Want to Start a Vape Shop Anyway?

Do you want to start a vape shop despite the potential risk? Then you should start thinking right away about what you can do to ensure a stable and diverse revenue stream. In other words, you should think of your venture as less of a vape shop and more of a smoke shop. Perhaps you could even think of your business as a shop for alternative supplements and other products.

For example, these are just a few of the types of products you can sell for additional revenue streams:

  • Alternative supplements and herbs such as CBD, kratom, and legal smoking herbs
  • Cigarette products such as roll-your-own tobacco, papers, filters, rolling machines, and hard-to-find imported cigarettes
  • Premium tobacco products such as cigars, pipes, and pipe tobacco
  • Dry herb vaping products such as vaporizers, grinders, and stash boxes
  • Alternative smoking products such as glass pipes

In the United States, many vape shops began as smoke shops and head shops and expanded their inventories to include vaping products. For that reason, many people expect to find much more than vaping products when they enter a vape shop.

If you’re passionate about vaping, the idea of selling products like imported cigarettes might strike you as something you don’t want to do. However, if you want your vape shop to survive the upcoming legal compliance deadline for vape product manufacturers, diversifying your product selection is the only way to ensure your survival.

How Can I Tell If My Vape Shop Would Be Successful?

The best way to tell if your vape shop would be successful is by examining your competition. It’s rare in the United States these days to find a neighborhood without a nearby vape shop, so your shop will almost certainly have at least one competitor.

Do you live in a city that’s already served by a vape mega-chain with several stores and great brand recognition? If you do, you’ll be competing against a company with a big marketing budget. You will only stand a chance if you have a definite plan for differentiating your vape shop.

It’s common, however, for small-town vape shops to not be particularly professional or well-organized. That’s especially likely to be the case for vape shops that started out as head shops. If that’s what the vaping scene in your city is like, you have a much better chance to jump out ahead of the competition quickly. This is especially true if you know how to run a professional operation.

Your online marketing skills will also greatly influence your chance of success. Perhaps you only want to run a brick-and-mortar store and have no intention of selling online. All the same, you’ll want to make sure your business comes up on Google when people search for vape shops in your area.

To give your vape shop the best chance of appearing prominently in search results, you’ll need to have a website. If you don’t know how to create a website and populate it with content, you’ll need to pay someone to do that for you. Your online marketing skills—or the skills of the person you hire—will greatly influence your chance of success.

Some Final Thoughts

Besides marketing your vape shop through your website, you’ll also need to ensure your shop has a presence on business directories such as Yelp. Moreover, Yelp optimization is a task that will consume much of your time. Many consumers who search online for local businesses skip Google entirely and go straight to Yelp.

Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your vape shop appears high on Yelp’s search results. You’ll also need to ensure that you always attend promptly to any negative reviews you receive.