If you have hookahs, shisha and accessories in your retail store, but want to sell more hookahs, feel like you should be selling more than you are, or are looking for ways to bring in more repeat business, we put this list together to give you some ideas. Some of them might not be possible in your location, other stores may be able to implement all 10, but either way, implementing just a few of these strategies are proven to increase the sales velocity of your hookah inventory and build a more loyal hookah customer base. As we strive to be the best wholesale hookah distributor on your list, we will continue to bring you fresh ideas and better content to improve your hookah business.
1. Smoke Hookah in Your Shop
This will depend on the rules in your area, but many cities with smoking bans will still allow smoking in a tobacco retailer. Let your staff smoke a hookah during certain hours to get people talking. Let the customers try it too! This will give your staff something to talk about with your guests, and it's a great ice breaker. So many customers feel timid in smoke shops and don't know how to engage with the staff. An open hookah station is a great way to get customers talking whether they buy hookah supplies or not.
2. Hookah Flavor Tasting Nights
Another idea is to set up a night in your shop to do flavor tastings. If you are lucky enough to be in a city that still allows indoor smoking for tobacco and pipe retailers, you can set up 2 or 3 hookahs in your store and get them smoking. Have some mouth tips on hand and recommend to your customers to try the featured flavors. Use your best sellers or new flavors to get people excited. So many people are blown away with the great flavor of hookah smoke that they didn't know they loved hookah. They just needed a place to try it.
3. Hire a Hookah Aficionado
The best hookah customers are excited about hookah flavors and all the different options and brands. They will want to discuss the flavor, the smoke, the cut, the buzz intensity, the longevity, bowl-loading technique and so many other variables when it comes to hookah. If your staff's hookah knowledge is limited to pointing at the hookahs on the shelf, you are losing business and turning away the customers that want to come back week after week to report back on their last experience, what flavors the liked or didn't and what they should try next. Having a hookah pro on staff who is passionate about the product makes a huge difference and you will instantly notice an uptick in sales. You can even ask them for help to improve your selection if you aren't a hookah connoisseur yourself. Maybe you can poach someone from a local hookah bar full time or perhaps they are looking to pick up a few extra shifts and your store could be a great fit.
4. Starter Packages w/ Clear Pricing
When new hookah customers are coming in for their first hookah, the wide range of options, flavors and accessories can be overwhelming and customers might get caught in analysis paralysis...or worse, just leave because they didn't want to look stupid by asking "newbie" hookah questions. Clearly mark a starter kit hookah package or maybe 2 in with different price tiers. This would include the hookah, coals, foil and a flavor. Let them know for $39.99 you can be home smoking hookah 15 minutes from now. That makes it easy to get started. Once they decide on a starter pack, it's easy to get them to add a couple extra flavors to try or create custom mixes. Just keep it clear and simple to eliminate any perceived friction that prevents your customers from making a decision.
5. Hookah Meet-Ups
Advertise on social media and reach out to your customers that you are setting up a hookah meet up group. It can be at your shop, in a local hookah lounge or in a city park. Invite your customers to bring their hookahs and their favorite custom mixes to have a "Hookah Battle" for the best flavor. Hookah smokers love the social aspect as well sharing their secret recipes, preparation techniques and swapping stories about how they came to be a hookah fanatic. Building that community will yield huge dividends in repeat business in your retail location.
6. Free Hookahs - Add a Free "Travel" Hookah to Big Hookahs
Everyone loves free, and one of the best freebies out there is a free "travel" hookah. These hookahs can cost you from $5-$10 but they retail in your store for $20-$30. If you have some big hookahs with price tags over $100, why not offer a "free" hookah with the purchase of premium level model. It only costs you a few bucks as the retailer, but your customer gets one helluva deal.
7. Dressing Hookahs with Extra Accessories
When you go to a car dealership, the floor models in the center of the showroom are never the stock models. They have the extra accessories on display, the spoiler, window tint, premium trim, fog lamps, etc. Do the same thing for a few of your hookahs. Load them up with the Kaloud Lotus 2.0, the smoke diffuser, the Ice Hose and Samsaris Vitria bowl. By displaying these accessories on hookahs in your store, you will be able to demonstrate how they work and why they are great upgrades for any hookah. You will also get a lot more attention on those upgraded models, and I promise you that someone is going to come in and buy the fully loaded package. Maybe cut them a small discount or throw in some freebie coals or flavors for the guy who just has to buy the best of the best.
8. Collaborate with Local Hookah Lounge
Set up a customer exchange with a near by hookah lounge in your area. I think every retailer has had people come in thinking there was a hookah lounge in the retail store and every lounge has definitely had customers come in looking to buy retail hookah supplies. Set up some a referral network, and even get some cards printed with a freebie offer that every customer the lounge sends to you gets an extra roll of coals and every customer you send to him gets an extra free drink. It will give the customers incentive to go to either location and you will help another local business of your choice. It's a win/win/win for you, your lounge partner and the customer!
9. Update Your Flavor List
You have to rotate new flavors into your line up. If you have the same 10-15 flavors on the shelves that you had back in 2014, it's time a for a change. There is too much innovation and new product to stay stagnant. Even if you feature a new flavor and only rotate 1 slot with the new flavor of the month, you just have to keep something new coming through the system. The repeat customers, the really good ones, the hookah fanatics will be researching the latest flavors and looking for places to buy them. Once you lose a customer to another shop or online retailer, it's so hard to get them back. Don't let them get away!
10. Punch Cards for Frequent Customers
Hookah customers are great sources of repeat business because the purchase the consumable "smokables" in your store. Create a punch card with a bonus on the 10th visit or after $100 spend. You decide the parameters. Maybe they get a free jar of shisha or cool accessory like a free premium hookah hose or maybe its a discount or cash credit on their 10th purchase. Your customers will want to come back to your store to fill up their card and cash in on their loyalty rewards.
We would love to hear from you too! If you tried any of these ideas, let us know how they worked for you. If you tried something not on our list, let us know what you did and how it worked out. We love your feedback! Just leave a comment and let's get the conversation started.