Smoke Shop Retailer Tips and Tricks (And the Worst Things You Can Do for Your Shop)
The only way to make a smoke shop successful is to put in a lot of effort every day. However, you can avoid wasted work and ensure that you're only focusing on the right endeavors if you follow a few simple tips for running a world-class smoke shop.
Basics of Running a Successful Business
Before we touch on tips applicable to smoke shops, it's essential to cover some of the basics of making any business successful. First, you'll need to make sure that you have a solid plan. There's no such thing as winging it in the world of retail, and if you try to start your business without adequate planning, you'll meet a lot of setbacks along the road, even if you're successful in the end.
You'll also need to make sure you have enough money to achieve your dream. If you're already scraping the bottom of the barrel for funds before opening your shop, you should seek financing. Even if your shop has been open for a while, financing sometimes makes sense if you want to have extra money for expanding or restructuring your business.
After you've made sure that your retail space is adequate for your needs, you'll need to get all the shelves, displays, and glass cases that will help you showcase your products. There are plenty of other steps you should take to set up a successful business, and some of these steps include:
- Hire good employees
- Get your back-office infrastructure in place
- Set up a POS system
- Make sure you're ready to handle payroll
- Track your inventory
- Explore digital marketing options
How to Run an Excellent Smoke Shop
Now that you're up to speed on the factors that make a retail shop great in any industry, here are some specific tips that every smoke shop owner can use to their advantage:
1. Educate Your Employees
Employee education is a huge aspect of running a successful smoke shop. To sell your products, your employees will need to know everything that there is to know about them.
In some cases, your employees might be able to teach themselves about your products. Give each employee an hour or so of paid time to search the internet and study the product descriptions of the items you offer.
However, you'll need to ensure that your employees spend their learning time effectively. Go over what each employee learned at the end of the study session. Then go out of your way to provide your staff with extra information on your star products.
To make employee education smoother, try reaching out to the manufacturers of some of your best-selling products. Some manufacturers have client relations specialists who can give you in-depth information on their products and relate selling tips.
More than anything, make your store a place where learning is encouraged. Give your employees time to learn about products, and create an environment where it's okay to ask questions.
2. Upgrade Your POS
Your point of sale (POS) system is your passport to making a profit. You'll lose sales, frustrate your employees, and reduce overall efficiency without an effective POS system.
While having a single cash register at the front of the store might be enough for mediocre smoke shops, you'll need to make things high-tech to remain competitive. Investing in a next-generation POS system will impress your customers, making your employees' jobs easier.
Equip your employees with iPads or smartphones that they can use to make sales on the fly. Platforms like Square, ShopKeep, and Shopify provide comprehensive POS systems integrating mobile devices and cloud-based accounting solutions. Plus, having an iPad at your register that employees can use to sign for credit card transactions will give your business a trendy, urban vibe that will keep your customers coming back.
3. Eliminate Clutter
Smoke shops suffer from Clutter more than almost any other type of business. If your customers are confronted with dangling Rasta beads and pot leaf emojis in every corner when they step through your door, they might be so overwhelmed that they leave without buying a single thing.
Take a hard look at your inventory; do you need to be selling every item currently on your shelves? If you keep accurate inventory information, it should be easy to identify low-performing items ripe for elimination. With the slow growth removed from your shop, your best-selling items will be able to shine all the brighter.
Remember that over-the-top psychedelic head shops aren't popular with consumers anymore. However, more and more, smoke shops are becoming popular with trendy young people from all walks of life, and members of this crowd might walk right out of a shop that looks like it's popular with graying deadheads.
4. Organize Your Products
You're doing something wrong if you have pipes mixed in with hacky sacks and blunt wraps. Every part of your shop should flow smoothly; Shops should keep related products together. The overall organizational structure of your retail environment should help customers browse through your categories or pick out the exact type of products they need at a moment's notice.
5. Feature Your Top Sellers
Determine which products in your store sell the best, and proudly display these products in prominent positions. Dedicated customers will go out of their way to find products that they truly desire, and if a product has been selling well even though it's hard to find, you know you have a winner.
Even if you have a prominent display for a product somewhere else in your shop, put a smaller display at your register. Then, while a customer might come into your shop to buy something completely different, they will have a tough time passing up the opportunity to pick up a favorite product on the way out the door.
6. Set up Signage and Displays
Products that should be top sellers can get stuck in the doldrums if you don't promote them properly. Many rolling paper manufacturers and other smoking accessory brands provide bright, attractive displays to promote their products. If you have a terrible habit of throwing these displays in the trash every time you receive a shipment, you'll need to look in the mirror and reevaluate your priorities.
An effective display will only take up slightly more room on your shelf than the product itself, and what it consumes in shelf space will make up for many times over in increased sale volumes. The same goes for signage; if a brand offers to send you a poster or a sign featuring its logo, don't hesitate to take it up on the offer. Even if you can't find space for the display in your shop, you can use it as a giveaway prize and make one of your customers very happy.
7. Finesse Your Décor
Figuring out the right décor style for your smoke shop can be challenging. On the one hand, you want your shop to look clean and professional, but on the other, you also want your space to look fun and approachable.
Take a look online for pictures of successful smoke shops, and put together some ideas for how you want your shop to look. You can use platforms like Pinterest to put together groups of pictures that convey the décor style you're going for. You can then put these ideas into practice with simple materials that you can find on Amazon or eBay.
The Social Factor
Social media plays a more prominent and significant role in business every year. Plus, it's always been important for shop owners to become active members of their communities. Here are a few ways that you can capitalize on the social aspects of your business:
1. Get Started on Instagram
If your shop isn't on Instagram, it should be. The number of businesses that use Instagram for marketing doubled in 2017, attesting to this platform's effectiveness as a selling platform.
Instagram's image-based interface is excellent for showing off products, and your business profile on this platform has a built-in store that you can use to sell your products to people all over the country. However, the best aspect of Instagram for smoke shops is influencer marketing.
Influencers are Instagram users who influence their followers to try products. These users have good reputations with their followers, and a single recommendation from the right influencer can result in dozens or even hundreds of sales.
Watch out for fake influencers. Lots of Instagram influencers buy followers or fake their follower counts, and you can use tools like Social Blade to make sure that an influencer is all they are cracked up to be.
2. Update Your Website
While your customers might mostly use platforms like Google, Facebook, and Instagram to learn more about you, having an attractive website is one of the best ways to appear bonafide. Even if you don't sell products on your website, welcoming curious customers to your shop with a polished digital presence will establish you as one of your community's best smoke shop proprietors.
3. Host Events
The natural and digital social worlds come together at the events you hold at your shop. Use Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to advertise events, and then use the event itself to network with customers, offer product samples, and make epic sales.
Some event ideas in smoke shops include product launches, meet and greets with samples, and guest speaker events. If you sell apparel in your shop, you could even put on a runway show, and free classes on the best ways to use rolling papers and water pipes are always fun ways to connect with the community.
4. Put the Customer First
One retail maxim is as old as time: "The customer is always right!" Customers are cautious of shops about making money, but they flock to stores that make them feel special. So go out of your way to connect with customers. Ensure that all your employees are on board with this customer care philosophy.
This principle also applies in the world of social media. Respond to customer questions as quickly as possible, and find ways to give back to loyal customers who boost your business with word of mouth.
Things You Should Never Do
We've covered plenty of things that you should do to make your shop run smoothly, but there are also some practices that you should learn to avoid:
1. Sticking with the Wrong Products
Just because a vape cartridge or rolling paper is your favorite doesn't mean your customers will feel the same way. From a business perspective, nothing is sillier than sticking with a product that isn't performing in line with your expectations. So, on a quarterly or bi-yearly basis, run sales numbers on each item in your inventory and get rid of things that aren't carrying their weight.
2. Hiring Carelessly
Many disreputable people are attracted to working at smoke shops because they think they can get away with shady behavior. Make it clear from the get-go that you only want the best people working at your shop; follow rigorous hiring protocols, and enact a zero-tolerance policy for drug use on the job.
It's also good to run a background check on every potential employee. When you hire someone to work in your shop, you're trusting that person not to steal or compromise your bottom line in any other way. Tell your employees unequivocal that they will be prosecuted if they steal from you.
3. Making It Tacky
It's essential to make your smoke shop look fun and attractive for the party crowd. However, you don't want to take things too far and alienate the ordinary people who come into your shop for casual smoking accessories.
Even if you love the Grateful Dead, limit yourself to one or two posters throughout your shop. Also, it's best to avoid using the number "420" in your decorations any more than is necessary. Lastly, while we all love Rasta colors, remember that you want your shop to appeal to everyone, not just dreadlocked Marley lovers.