We wanted to find out how many vaping e-liquid and hardware retail shops are in the US. This is a sector currently undergoing some transformations. We scoured various articles, FDA releases, and organizational reports in order to find the most up-to-date data and share it for anyone who is curious.
There are a great many means through which vaping hardware and related supplies, such as juices, are retailed. According to Vape News Magazine, these fall into a number of categories. The only type that fits the criteria of hardware *and* e-liquids are the vape shops. These cater strictly to e-cigarette users and often feature a ‘tasting bar’ or ‘vape room’.
The magazine article estimates there were 6,000-7,000 of these stores. USA Today, citing market analysis performed by Wells Fargo, indicates that there are 8,500 vaping goods stores in the US, having generated revenues of $900 million in 2014. The Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) released – just days ago – its full 2015 Vape Shop Index report, which is available for purchase. A synopsis of the study appears on their website.
The article says that, nationally, sales of $1.5 billion per year are extrapolated from the data collected, amounting to $300,000 per brick-and-mortar annually (and excluding online sales).
By dividing the total market by the per store average, it can be deduced that there are 5,000 vape stores by SFATA’s estimation. Clearly, there is a discrepancy in how the counts are being conducted or estimated, but the range would fall between a low of 5,000 and an upper end of 8,500 retail locations in the US.
There are a number of other kinds of stores, however, that sell e-cig products in addition to their regular product lines. Among them are:
–Smoke shops with just about everything one might legally want to inhale, mostly tobacco products. When they sell vaping gear, they tend to focus on the hardware.
–Hybrid stores are those that focus on something else entirely, but include some limited point-of-sale display of e-cigarettes.
–Head shops, long known for selling products with “coded” names so as to comply with law while catering to counter-culture products (except where those have been legalized), are now including vaping gear among their product lines. In those states where marijuana is offered at retail, THC e-liquids are also available.
–Retail food/drug stores, in some instances, have added vaping products to their “impulse buy” displays. Some, however, will not because they’ve publicly committed to not making tobacco available – and confuse e-cigs and juices with traditional products.
–Big Box, or warehouse stores, such as Walmart and Costco are recent entrants to the market.
The Vape News Magazine that provided the above information indicates that, if you combine all of the above with the true Vape Shops, there may be as many as 35,000 total retail locations. This, however, is conjecture.
The USA Today article raises an important issue facing the industry: increased regulatory pressures and scrutiny. There is concern that – although the industry has voluntarily refrained from marketing juices containing nicotine to the under-18 demographic and conforms to ISO standards – Americans will merely trade one bad habit for another and that young people in particular will be deluded into believing that “smoking is cool”.
Consequently, in October, the FDA asserted its authority to regulate e-cig devices and e-liquids and issued new rules with a 75-day comment period. They received more than 4,300 signatures via the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in support of restricted sales, safety packaging and a ban on certain flavors of e-liquids. They received another 1,000+ citing regulatory burden and deprivation of consumer choice. Additionally, 74 retail store owners submitted independent commentary that supported consumer safety regulations. A final version of the proposed rules went to the Administration for review at the end of that month; if approved, it may result in 99% of products currently available being removed from the market and thus a massive decrease in the number of vendors.