by Norm Bour
In 2014 the Oxford Dictionary named the word “Vape” as their Word of the Year. If there is a contender for 2021, the word of the year could easily be the word “Delta,” since the Delta 8, 9 and 10 configurations were some of the top selling products for smoke shops this year. Not only were they profitable, but they were also controversial and in some states, deemed illegal.
Delta 8 can be extracted from either hemp (usually) or cannabis, but because the THC content is less than .03%, and because the 2018 farm bill said it was legal, hemp can be legally grown even in states where Delta-9 (THC) is not. Regardless, about a dozen states have banned it within those borders, and many think the impetus behind this ban is the cannabis businesses themselves.
Delta 10 is the New Kid on the Block, and showing signs of growing as well as signs of banning. Most shop owners believe that both Delta products will be outlawed at some point, which gets us back to good old fashioned cannabis dispensaries themselves.
As we queried shops all around the country about trends, both current and going forward, many had the same feedback about the Delta lines, but there were also other unique trends that were mentioned.
Dani Radigan is the owner of Chasin’ Vapor in Pewaukee, WI, and started as an exclusively vape oriented shop, but over the past year added Delta 8, as have many, and has faith that it is a good replacement for THC products.
“These D8 products are potent and almost reach THC levels of Delta 9 products. The creams, gummies, and cartridges definitely help keep us in business,” she said. Low THC medical cannabis is legal in Wisconsin, but recreational is not.
Robert Cartagine, a former HQ Shop of the Month, concurs, and added: “D8 and D10 cartridges and disposables are our top product lines this year, followed by THC-O carts and disposables. Anything with those ingredients are in high demand, followed by flower, chocolates, and 510 batteries for the cartridges.
Overall business and smoke shop sales are up, led by the older Baby Boomer and senior demographics—and they have money,” he surmised.
Cartagine has an interesting business model in that he runs The Vaping Store as well as The Chill Room, a full-blown Kava bar, with a section carved out for glassware and even a kiln for blowing glass. These models in Lake Worth and Worthington Florida, may also be future trends.
Keelan Gallagher, one of the family members who owns the almost 170 Smoker’s Friendly locations in seven states, agreed, plus added a few more.
“We are big Kratom sellers here at SF,” he said, “and Kratom shots are a big and growing trend. On top of that, since extraction and dabbing are big, we sell a lot of butane, which has always been a store staple. Nicotine patches have also grown, along with Hemp Wraps, which avoid tobacco taxes and flavor bans.”
Kratom is another controversial product whose legality has been questioned over the years. Since smoke/ head shops carry such a varied and unique product mix, diversification remains the order of the day.
A little out of left field, Shana Wilkinson from Smokey Shays in North Carolina, reports growing sales of what she calls “exotic snacks and sodas.” These include products that are sold outside the US in international markets, but are not quite so available here in the US. I have seen this trend myself as a world traveler, and people always seem to want “something new.”
I am a frequent attendee of Smoke Shop Events, a B2B trade show which is run four times a year at different resort locations in the country. I am always amazed at the innovation and at how many NEW products come out every year. As of this writing, medical cannabis is legal in 64 percent of the country, and recreational is legal in 18 states—and growing. The stigma of pot, and of visiting a head or smoke shop, may be a paranoia of the past. Just as porn has become mainstream and above the covers, many formerly illicit drugs are, too. And they need an industry to support them in the proper form.
As 2021 ticks down, the smoke shop industry remains strong and overall bullish. We are not quite “normal” yet, and COVID is still impacting our businesses, both in a GOOD way and a BAD one.