How online shopping has revived shisha in Australia

April 09, 2019

Image of woman shopping online for shisha using her smartphone

Australia is a very unique country. Australia is the 6th largest country in the world by area, but only the 55th largest country by population. What this means is that Australia's population is spread out; or rather that its cities are spread out, with large areas of (mostly) uninhabited land in between. If you look at our capital cities – Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney – outside of Canberra they're all situated on the coastline, and at least 250 km apart as the crow flies. Perth is 2,130 km from its next closest city (Adelaide), and Darwin a whopping 2,650 km from its next closest (Perth). The geographical make-up of Australia has always created interesting logistical problems, where transporting goods and commodities has proven both difficult and expensive.

When we look at the retail sector, historically Australian cities and towns have been serviced by local traders, as transporting goods long distances was mostly unprofitable. It was normal for towns to be practically self-sufficient, with limited items coming from interstate or overseas. It's hard to believe now, but once upon a time tobacconist stores were as prevalent as hairdressers and hardware stores, and a staple of every town. As Australia became more aware of the effects of smoking tobacco in the second half of the 20th century, and the Australian Government started applying exorbitantly high excise taxes on tobacco, the local tobacconists began to disappear, and obtaining smoking related products (outside of cigarettes) became much harder. To use shisha as a specific example, even in a city's metropolitan suburbs you might have to travel 10 – 15 km just to find a store that sells hookah pipes or shisha tobacco, and even then you'd be lucky to find more than one brand or multiple flavours of shisha. Before online shopping became a thing, it looked like the days were numbered for enjoying shisha in Australia.

In spite of the logistical difficulties, Australians have been some of the fastest adopters of online shopping in the world, both as customers and online sellers. Using Australia Post's national network and other national courier services to transport online orders all over Australia, online businesses have been able to meet customers' delivery expectations while reaching an infinitely greater customer base. Unlike a local retailer that is confined by its physical location, online businesses can operate a single warehouse that supplies the whole of Australia (and beyond); something that wasn't conceivable 50 years ago.

So how exactly has online shopping (and the Internet as a whole) revived the hookah industry in Australia? Firstly, through convenience. Shisha lovers no longer have to search far and wide to find a physical store that sells hookah pipes and shisha tobacco. Searching for and purchasing your favourite shisha products can be performed using only a smartphone, at any time of the day. No more yielding to shop opening hours, online orders can be placed 24/7 at a time that's convenient to the shopper (as opposed to the store owner). With convenience comes variety. Instead of having to stock multiple physical stores, online shisha stores can offer a much larger range of products from a single location. This means that if you want a specific brand of shisha tobacco (or tobacco-free shisha such as Heaven Leaf teabacco), you can find an online seller with a simple Google search.

The next benefit of shopping for shisha online is that you can compare prices. It's not realistic to phone multiple physical stores that sell shisha to try to obtain the best price, but the Internet makes this process a whole lot easier. Also, the Internet is a lot more transparent in terms of the authenticity and quality of online businesses, where seller ratings and online customer reviews will quickly weed out the dodgy businesses (at least those with an online presence). Finally, online shopping has helped hookah bars and shisha lounges, both through promotion and wholesale supply of hookah pipes and shisha tobacco. It's not just retail customers who prefer to buy their shisha products online; many businesses in the food & entertainment industry have switched to online sourcing of their shisha stock.

If you haven't already tried ordering shisha products online, it's time to give it a shot and experience the many benefits for yourself. You can start off small by ordering some Heaven Leaf shisha teabacco, or an accessory for your existing hookah.

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