I think the reason that the vape stores are seeing a decrease in business is because the industry as a whole has gone off in the wrong direction.
Like many folks who got in this industry, I got in in it because I thought I could provide a "way out" for folks that could never quit smoking AND give them a better product to use to do that. This industry has moved forward in introducing new hardware and "gimmick" juices way too fast and has driven itself into becoming a niche product for the young crowd.
I started in 2013 .. not that long ago .. using regular batteries and tanks (1300mah twist with an aero-tank or similar). When our first juice flavors came out (50/50) we were almost the only juice with ingredients and ratio listed on the label. We were also one of the few juice companies to use only natural extracts and no sweetners or other junk .. just pure healthy stuff.. There was no such thing as dripping or sub-ohm tanks. A person could quit smoking, save money and save themselves. As things progressed, it was evident that the industry was going south. Vape shops became places where a small "click" of cloud blowing young folks hung out.
Normal people seeking information and a way out of smoking stopped going to "vape shops". Very few vape shops today even sell a starter product that a smoking adult can actually buy and use regular juice that only costs about $12 for a 15ml and lasts all week. It is so much easier to sell a 30ml bottle a day to a person not supporting a family that is sucking the juice down as fast as they can buy it. Plus, most vape shop staff don't know how to sell either .. they are order takers. They just keep getting the newest non-compliant "gimmick" juice someone came in and expunged about. I go behind counters in vape stores everyday and sell things they never sell because I am LISTENING to the customer and trying to help them.
Very sad ... the saddest part is that the market for the future of vaping is people that STILL SMOKE. These folks worry bout two things .. I waste too much money on smoking and I am killing myself. They are filled with guilt because they have not been able to quit and it is hurting their family. This is our market .. but we do not cater to it. They do not care about or want to look at the latest 200watt box that goes through $100 a week in juice. They DESERVE the same joy we experienced in starting by saving money and our health. They DESERVE being able to experience the same journey we went on as we started at the beginning and then made our own choices as to how far we wanted to go with more advanced hardware and techniques.
I monitor the market very closely and have read many forum posts from those that went to a vape shop, were started with a sub-ohm kit, and quit within a few weeks because it cost WAY MORE than smoking. They are back on the forums trying to find a way to quit but getting no help. The cigarette companies are loving it because right after sub-ohm became big their sales started going back up and vape sales went down (and yes I get three reports a week on all vape and cigarette company sales and stock prices). DUH .. we are not catering to the REAL market .. the BIG market .. people that need help quitting cigarettes.
I have seen a huge increase in sales though in SMOKE Shops. You know, the ones that sell glass and other paraphernalia the vape industry shies away from. They actually sell starter kits and 50/50 juice .. and lots of it. They are the ones that are keeping the "vape shops" alive because they are creating NEW VAPERS.
Look, I am an active advocate of vaping and have every imaginable box and other mods and drippers and sub-ohm gizmos but I went there by choice. I got to take the journey that every new vaper deserves to take. Sadly, if everyone doesn't wake up then the writing is on the wall. Does you local vape shop have quality starter kits and a wide variety of quality 50/50 juice? I doubt it. The real market (SMOKERS) need to start where we started .. as in starter kits that burn a $12 bottle of juice a week. They need to feel the joy of stopping smoking AND saving money .. that is what they are looking for. Then you have a lifetime customer that grows as their own pace.