There is a lot going on here and much of it needs to be addressed.
First, I should note that we have not seen a slowdown in our store. In fact, we have seen an increase. Each and every 30 days have been better than the last. I know that we are doing things differently and that helps to keep us moving forward.
There has been a lot of talk here about online sales and the inability to compete. Here is a hint, a Brick & Mortar will never be able to compete with online sales. And another hint, you should never be trying to. You would simply be wasting your time. This is NOT specific to vape shops. Amazon stores do very well selling products for a dollar over cost and adding one dollar to the shipping. They work off of very large amounts of sales. ALL online vape stores are doing the exact same thing. They DO buy larger quantities and realize bigger discounts. That said, there are MANY things that you can do that they will never be able to do. You have to figure out what they are in your market and use them.
By the way, I do the same thing. You MUST negotiate with your vendors. Do not pay what they are asking, it’s not good business. Call each and every one of them and ask them for a discount. I promise you, it works. And if 20% of them say no, you are still getting a better price with 80% of them. This has to be an ongoing part of your business plan. Without it, you won’t even compete with the shop down the street.
Speaking of other shops, get to know them intimately. If you are not doing things better than them, you are not doing your due diligence. You need to know their pricing, customer service, products, staff, and the sales they are making. Without this information, how could you possibly be better? Know what they are doing and do it better.
I don’t agree that Vaping has gone off the rails. There is a market for everything and you need to capitalize on that. This past year, I saw a vape shop go under. They had the PERFECT location. When you went into the store, you would find a lot of ONE product. Unfortunately, they lacked some of the very basic things that every new vapor needs. Mechanical mods sell great but never try to make that your main product. It is a recipe for failure. I don’t quite understand all this talk about 50/50 E Liquids. Some of the better starter kits on the market work fantastic with any mixture, high VG or otherwise. This is really important because getting people off of traditional tobacco products should be your first priority. Keeping them off with new products should be your second.
Every shop should be doing one thing great! I am sure you know what it is. It has the best return and if you are not excelling at this, you need to make a change, quickly. Starter kits, coils, other hardware, and accessories are important. But they are not where the money is. Your pricing has to be fair and the only way to do this is to work on the vendors that supply you.
Before we opened our shop, we chose one thing that we would be the best at that would make customers come back. It works well for us. As a team, we meet about it once every two weeks to see if we can do it better and we never fail at it. It was the one thing that I noticed was lacking in many shops in our area. You need to find that thing and get it right. Then move on to the next thing and get that right.
Finally, I wanted to mention that I have no experience in the Pennsylvania 40% wholesale tax. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that and I truly feel for everyone that has to deal with it. In our State, they proposed a VERY large tax on E Liquids. It would have been very bad. For two months, I had two priorities. One, speak with every single politician and ask them for help. Two, create a business plan that would work under the new tax. In the end, the tax was stripped from the proposed budget. We got lucky.