Head Shop Industry Cruising Through Competition From Legal Marijuana Retailers

Some people undoubtedly expected that head shops, once the sole destination to buy water pipes and other drug paraphernalia, would see a decline in popularity with the introduction of marijuana retail stores, which usually offer the paraphernalia for cannabis consumption in addition to the cannabis itself.  However, according to recent updates by Marijuana Business Daily, the opposite is taking place.

In fact, with medical marijuana taking the country by storm (and recreational marijuana surely not far behind), the head shop industry has seen significant growth on a national scale. According to a 2013 estimation, head shops generate $10 billion annually in the U.S.

Mike Gonzales, sales coordinator for Headquest Magazine, has reported that head shop sales in Denver have spiked dramatically since legalization. “Now that [marijuana] is legalized, there’s a lot more new shops opening up, more wholesalers, a lot more new products out there,” he explains.

A report published in Headquest Magazine last year read, “The vast majority of smoke shops see increasing competition, increased opportunities, and increasing sales.” In other words, “The pie is getting bigger.”

One strategy adopted by head shops to stay relevant in cannabis culture is to target the connoisseur market with high-quality and high-value products. Chris Woods, founder of a chain of Colorado recreational pot shops, said, “The people that are buying paraphernalia at our store, it’s more of a functional purpose. It’s not like a head shop, where they might spend several hundred dollars. I don’t think we’re taking their business.” Additionally, dispensaries and retail stores often don’t carry much more than a very basic inventory of pipes, vaporizers, and rolling papers; a head shop, however, can dedicate an entire store to offering a wide variety of products.

Others cite cannabis’ growing presence in mainstream culture as another reason for head shops to see such growth, even in states where medical and recreational marijuana are still illegal. “It’s more acceptable to have glass,” explains Jake Wright, co-owner of Brothers with Glass, an online glass pipes retailer based in Portland, Oregon. “There’s a lot less chance… that it can get confiscated, so you can invest a little more money in a… water pipe.”



Photo Credit: D.C.Atty

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