When the folks at Oxford Dictionaries named “vape” their Word of the Year, it was like an official declaration that vaping was poised to enter the mainstream. The word “vape” was actually added to the Oxford Dictionaries in August of 2014 and named Word of the Year in November. The selection criteria for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is somewhat subjective, but prestigious nonetheless.
The Global Language Monitor also names an annual Word of the Year (as well as Phrase and Name of the Year). Their selection is based on actual usage of words in over 250,000 print and electronic outlets. Their top two words for 2014 aren’t even actually words, not in the strictest sense. Number one was the Heart ♥ Emoji, a symbol, and number two was the hashtag. Not the word “hashtag,” but the actual symbol “#” for the hashtag. Coming in at number three, and the first actual word on the list, was “vape.”
Why the sudden attention? Well, before the word “vape” could actually gain such widespread usage, the actual practice of vaping was growing. Some sources put annual vape sales in the $2 billion a year ballpark. That’s a lot of people who vape. Here where I live, Newnan, GA, a town about 30 miles south of Atlanta, there are four vape shops and a fifth is rumored to be opening just after the first of the year. That’s in a town with a population of around 35,000. Newnan is in Coweta County, which is projected to have a population of around 150,000 before the end of 2015. So even if we use the larger population of Coweta County, that ‘s still one vape shop for every 30,000 people. If that fifth shop doesn’t materialize, it’s one vape shop for every 37,500 people.
Now not all of those people vape, not all of them are even potential vapers. So let’s dig a little deeper. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 76% (or around 114,000 people) of Coweta County residents are 18-years-old or older. And according to CountyHealthRatings.org, 16% of adults (or 18,240 adults) in Coweta County smoke. And if smokers and former smokers are the most likely potential customers, that brings that number of people per vape shop in the county down to 4,560 for the four existing shops and drops it to 3,648 potential customers per shop if that fifth one opens. If each of those customers spent $1,000 per year on ejuice and mods and other vaping equipment, that would mean the vape shops in the county would have $18,240,000 to divide. That’s $3,648,000 per shop if that fifth shop opens and each shop does the same amount of business.
Those numbers are probably somewhat optimistic, maybe extremely optimistic. But even one tenth of those numbers, or $364,800 per shop, would appear to be a fair living for a small shop with only a couple of employees. I’ve visited each of those shops and have never been the only customer. Sure, some are busier than others. The one I frequent most often is always full of people spending money. Always. And while I’ve never been the only customer, I have, in a couple of those shops, been one of only two customers.
So how does it look for vaping in 2015? Pretty good, I think. Here in Coweta County more people will stop smoking and start vaping, spending the money they used to spend on tobacco on ejuice and mods and coils and what not. That new vape shop will probably open. Maybe even another one or two before the year is over. And maybe a couple of them, especially those were I represented 50% of the clientele, will close, leaving more business for those that remain. If not in 2015 then certainly before the end of 2016. And that’s probably pretty much the outlook for the vaping industry as a whole. More players will come on the scene. Local shops and regional chains. Hardware manufacturers and ejuice makers. Some of them will do well, others, not so much.
The new year should prove to be an exciting one for the vaping industry, one dominated by growth. Growth in the number of vapers, which means growth in dollars spent. And growth in the number of companies making things to sell to those vapers. To survive, compete, succeed those companies will need to continue to innovate, and keep their prices competitive. This growth curve could continue beyond 2015, probably will. The industry is no where near saturation yet.
The only thing that could slow or cut short this growth would be interference from government, whether that be at the local, state or federal level. Heavy handed regulations, bans on certain types of flavored ejuice and the inevitable paperwork, reports and inspections that accompany government regulation would serve to add to the cost of doing business for any company or individual in the vaping indstry. And since many of those businesses are small, independent concerns, they would feel that expense more acutely than larger more established corporations who have entire departments in place to deal with compliance issues.
Yes, the future is bright for all us in the world of vaping. The individual vaper, the local vape shop and ejuice mixologist as well as the larger hardware manufacturers. We’re poised to enter the mainstream. To help ensure that our growth continues, it’s in our own best interest to be alert to pending legislation and regulations in our own communities and states as well as nationally. We need to band together with others in the vape community at large and let our voices be heard. That way we can be sure that 2014 is not the final year of the vape.