Cannabis retail determined to stay open

Published on March 26, 2020 by David Wylie

Cannabis retailers throughout North America say they are determined to keep their doors open amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

BDS Analytics, which specializes in cannabis market and trends reports, recently held a webinar to present some of the data its collected from retail stores throughout Canada and the US.

BDS co-founder and CEO Roy Bingham along with VP Operations Greg Shoenfeld, talked about trends they’ve mapped from visits and calls with retailers.

“The retailers are here to stay,” says Shoenfeld. “To the best of their ability, they are planning to stay open.”

Ontario has designated cannabis retail and production to be essential, following the lead of other jurisdictions, including San Francisco and LA.

“That’s going to be really important going forward. That really sets the tone, as municipalities across the country are grappling with similar questions,” says Shoenfeld.

“We hope they will continue to make the decision to keep them open.”

Many retailers who have been able to remain open have seen “tremendous, tremendous sales,” says Shoenfeld.

“Some characterized it as being as (busy), or busier, than 4/20.”

Still, more than half of retailers say they are experiencing some form of staffing issue as the pandemic unfolds. They have generally been able to cover by assigning more hours to remaining staff or operating with fewer employees.

“If the staffing becomes tighter, that will be a constraint,” he says.

Flower flying off the shelves

Shoenfeld says retailers have seen a surge in demand for good old fashioned bud.
“By and large, the most common product category that retailers are indicating is moving fast is flower, some particularly called out CBD-heavy flower as going first.”

Consumers are also buying it in larger formats than usual.

Edibles are also proving popular.

The supply chain remains robust for cannabis; however, some retailers cited shortages of cleaning supplies and coffee. There is also some trepidation that packaging — much of which comes from China — will be impacted.

Meanwhile, Bingham spoke about consumer trends, saying cannabis consumers generally have the habit of partaking alone… “they’re going to be spending a lot of time alone.”

He says people generally consume in the evening, but being locked inside all day, they may consume more.

“They’re anxious about the future, they’re going to be spending a lot of time being home alone,” he says. “You can’t go to the gym, or do other things you might do to relax.”

Access and availability are critical, including the ability to have cannabis delivered, he says. There is a risk that people may return to the illicit market due to a lower price, as people have lost jobs and are experiencing constraints on their income.

“We’ve certainly seen spike in delivery sales where we track them,” says Shoenfeld.

Ordering ahead has also proved possible.

He says this is an opportunity for retailers to retrain consumers on their purchasing habits.

Some retailers are also allowing customers to pick up outside the store.