I’ve got some disturbing news for all of the builders, drippers, and lovers of all things vaping rebuildable. It seems as though the epoch of the RDA might be coming to an end. I know, I know, before you freak out let me explain why I’m saying this. As you can imagine, being a vape shop owner for over 5 years I have “some” inside knowledge to this industry and I’m really starting to get nervous.
Since I started vaping in 2013 I’ve been a builder. Beginning with OLD SCHOOL 18-19mm RDA’s, the original Kayfun RTA (back then it didn’t have an acronym, it was simply “The Kayfun”), I rarely if ever used a commercial setup. At this point I couldn't even reasonably guess how many coils I've made in the past 5 years, or on how many different devices, thousands and hundreds, respectively. I’ve always been a man-child who likes to tinker with things, learn everything about them, and be the master of my own destiny so to speak. Occasionally over the years I’ve run sub tanks (after they were invented lol), refillable pod systems, but primarily it’s been RDA, RTA, RDTA, and now RSA. Back in the day it was hard to find quality drippers, well it was hard to find just about everything and without being too far from the truth, we simply made do with what we could get our hands on. By 2015, rebuilding had taken the industry by storm and at least 2 of us, every single day, would spend HOURS at the build stand with customers. Then the FDA shit show began, they made building for customers “tobacco manufacturing” an illegal activity, and basically 90% of that market disappeared over night. You see, most of the people that were using big fog machines, did not know how to build for themselves, didn’t care to learn, and were happy letting guys like me make their vaping dreams come true.
Skip forward a couple years and we get to present time, March 2018. We’re still here despite the FDA’s best efforts, the shop is still going strong, but even in the past 9 months it’s gone from daily rebuildable conversations in the shop, to near monthly (if we’re even lucky enough for that). What used to be an entire shelf in a display, is now nothing more than a tucked away corner mostly hidden from view. My biggest problem right now? I cannot get rebuildable hardware….from almost anywhere….and this industry doesn’t seem to realize that yet.
I have lots of vendors I curate our shop’s collection from, 4 main vendors, 2 of which are in the running for “North America’s Largest Vape Wholesaler”, so needless to say I have access to this industry. Every single day I watch reviews about the newest and best rebuildables and when I find something we are interested in, we buy it, build it, vape it, and if we like it, we sell it. But starting January 2018 I began noticing my vendors not stocking many of the hottest products (per reviewers and media) and I was having a helluva time getting stuff in to sell! The Drop RDA was voted 2017’s best RDA by 3 different publications, and the best RDA ever made by another. We had them, sold them, love them, it’s my “go to RDA” right now. When they finally released new colors I was beyond the moon excited….until I couldn’t get them from ANY of my vendors. 3 months earlier, couldn’t keep them in stock and then nothing. After spending a month trying to find them, and losing several sales in the process from lack of inventory, I spoke to a friend who works for a MASSIVE wholesale vendor, and asked “What in the world is going on with rebuildable stock??” He explained that their procurement department didn’t actually know much about vaping, nor did they care to know about it. They made decisions based on profit margins and gross sales. In fact what I was told was, “If we can’t sell AT LEAST 400 units in 4 months, at the magic profit margin, it’s not worth it for us.” When I asked if rebuildable sales were down across the country he confirmed that they were, and said from his interactions “Those people still building have moved to high-end only, and completely avoid brick and mortar shops.”
So, that’s the inside story about the rebuildable market. Apparently demand has crashed in the US, causing very “corporate minded” wholesalers to base product selection on profit margins, instead of efficacy. Regardless of what we see on the internet, and regardless of what is being produced, access to this portion of the market will most likely continue to decline until it’s nothing more than something we used to do…..