A Blended Show You Shouldn’t Have Missed
By NORM BOUR
Winters in Las Vegas can be unpredictable, and you never know what you’re going to get. But the attendees and vendors that came to TPE this year were blessed with sunny skies, warm temperatures, and an atmosphere of positive expectations and potential.
It seems the doom and gloom from the past few years has disappeared as those of us in the vape, smoke shop and alternative areas have discovered.
TPE, which used to be the abbreviation for Tobacco Plus Expo has gone through changes over the years, not much different than the industries they support. The program brochure calls the event “Tobacoo+Vapor+Alternative” as they, like many, have distanced themselves from the “tobacco” reference.
This 2018 expo covered vape, tobacco, hookah, convenience store items, and a growing inventory of alternative products. The times they are a changing.
The New World Order
This expo was a partnership with the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, NATO, which no longer does annual conventions. NATO focuses on local ordinances and regulations and offers great insight to the tobacco industry. Now that many more products are deemed “tobacco” according to the FDA, it was a natural union.
TPE has always excelled at showcasing a diverse line of products and providing great education. This year they kicked ass at both.
In less than 48 hours they provided nine different speakers or panels and covered such topics as Market Trends in Tobacco, Winning in a New Tobacco World, FDA Compliance update, and Vapor: A Survivor’s Game.
With over 350 exhibitors on the floor (they were sold out), catching all the education and visiting all the booths made for a busy, lively show.
One of the panelists shared that his chain of smoke shops, which was 120 years old, has seen cigarette sales decline from 82 percent of their volume in 2003 to just 48 percent in 2017. All panelists agreed that “you must change with the industry” and though many of the speakers came from the tobacco side, their insight was applicable to vape shops as well.
Randy Silverman from Klafters in Pennsylvania asked “Do you know what customers ask for the most? Glass pipes!” That caught his company by surprise but concluded that “that is just the state of the industry.” His company was concerned that some customers would object to paraphernalia, but they got no pushback.
Another echoed similar thoughts and said, “Ninety five percent of their smoke shop sales were pipes less than $30 which accounted for 22 percent of their profit margin.”
Is there a lesson to be learned?
In addition, all the smoke shop owners on the panels carried CBD in their shops and one said that sales of CBD products have doubled in each of the last two years.
Another panel, which included well known and respected attorney Phil Daman with Daman and Associates, shared some insight about the Lost Arts Liquids lawsuit against the FDA and provided a caveat about PMTA timing. Daman is representing Lost Art.
“If you are not working on your PMTA filing already, you will be in big trouble,” he cautioned. “Four years go quickly and though the date may change again, don’t count on it.”
He also shared some thoughts on why the FDA will have a hard time pushing so hard against the vaping industry.
“Congress is charged with providing direction for the common good. If vaping products cannot innovate and improve the health of the public, it contradicts their mandate.”
All the panelists at that session agreed that mergers and consolidations will dictate the future of the industry.
The Showroom Floor
With so much variety of vendors, the floor was a United Nations of different industries. Over the past few years the tobacco and hookah presence decreased and vape and alternative have filled in the gap.
The Shenzhen companies were there along with many other overseas manufacturers.
Visitors also came from afar as we ran into Oliver Kershaw, founder of the Electronic Cigarette Forum (ECF), in from London, and well known TPD compliance expert Peter Beckett, formerly with Nerudia Compliance, who resides in Belgium.
And there was an unexpected visitor that had eyebrows raised and tongues wagging.
The FDA Center for Tobacco Products brought two brave soles to offer information and two sets of ears to hear people complain about them. Their two reps were light hearted about the potential taunts and their presence showed that maybe the FDA does want to listen.
But maybe not…
A few of the big names in vape were there, though not with the mega booths that they once manned. We ran into Aaron Pederson, founder of Space Jam and members of the Cosmic Fog team as well. They were all pleased with the show and shared that new relationships came out of it. One of them said it was the most successful show they ever attended.
One of the vendors who asked not to be named said they did $60K in sales on the first day, so they made their money back, which is uncommon.
The mood of the room was fun, crowded, but not overly so, and most everyone we spoke with had good things to say. Music was everywhere, but not disruptive, and though there was copious vapor in the air, it was not congesting.
Kretek International owns TPE and designed and ran this show on their own. When asked about the Vapor Expo International Shows, previously held in Chicago, they announced that they will focus on just one big show moving forward.
If you have never attended TPE, put it on your schedule for 2019. They already have the Las Vegas Convention Center booked for Feb. 11-13, 2019.
Norm Bour is the founder of VapeMentors and creator of the VAPE U online programs. He is also a founding partner in the Vape Industry Business Exchange (VIBE).
This article originally appeared in https://vapenews.com/magazine