CANNABIS SHOPS IN CO Part 1: A REVIEW-STORE LAYOUT, VISUAL MERCHANDISING, TRANSACTIONS

Last week while on a road trip to Boulder I had the chance to visit several cannabis shops in the state: Pueblo and two in Boulder-one of which is part of a 17 store chain owned by a company called Native Roots.

For the last 18 years, working on behalf of a magazine distributor serving upscale/specialty grocers around the country (think Whole Foods, Sprouts, Central Market in TX and others on this tier) -meeting with owners, vp’s and buyers-averaging 25 trips a year-  I not only lead our team in the process of getting a custom magazine program in place but also became heavily involved in visual merchandising/store layout and design for the stores we worked with via my involvement with the design of custom check stand fixtures.

So I took this  opportunity to compile some field notes about the cannabis retailers I saw, using the  experience I’d gained working with grocers-concentrating on store layout, visual merchandising, transactions and some of the products.

As far as the “products” go while I’ve tried some of the edibles and have some experience with the activated tinctures -which I  believe have great potential for many people (more in a later post) I was primarily interested in once again trying  the same cannabis infused topical pain cream someone had let me try over the last year.  I’ve found it to be a great way to alleviate muscle and joint pain -the things that develop from physical activity or the body otherwise experiencing naturally occurring pain.

While I didn’t see the same brand in any of the stores I visited- I did end up getting a look at a  couple of products made by Mary’s who makes a number of substances in this area of treatment.

The picture below is one that’s used via a gel-pen. You push up from the bottom and it dispenses the cream onto your skin. The company recommends application to areas like behind the knees-where the skin is thinner and your veins have an easier time absorbing the treatment.

A simple way to apply a cannabis treatment for minor pain.

A simple way to apply a cannabis treatment for minor pain.

The first  store I visited was the Marisol shop in Pueblo-located about 10 miles from interstate 25, in West Pueblo- an area filled with light manufacturing and other small businesses.

Exterior of the Marisol cannabis shop in Pueblo, CO

Exterior of the Marisol cannabis shop in Pueblo, CO

As you can see the exterior looks new. But the Marisol interior- as opposed to what a grocer-might have done-is spartan, utilitarian- I  recall seeing lots of pegboard too. The interior space had the feeling of a local business you might see in a small town in flyover country that died a slow death over the years.

Overhead schematic of Marisol

Standard operating procedure in the cannabis shops means upon entering you’re met by an employee who inspects your ID-making sure you and your ID is legit-21 and not expired.

In Marisol the initial contact was with a man who looked like he could be a bouncer or a Sons of Anarchy chapter member- not unexpected in a way as Pueblo’s demographics are… a little different than say Boulder’s.

Once past the guard, in this shop you’re directed towards a line queue-a bank line approach-where the front of the line is about 10 – 15 feet away from the counter where the person that will help you stands.

As far as the point of purchase goes, it consists of long, old fashioned looking-glass jewelry cases filled with some things associated with the main product-buds of different kinds of cannabis-located on shelves back behind the store associate-in this case two young women-serving the customers.

My experience with grocery stores had me examining their POP for impulse item possibilities. As it stands now-and maybe CO laws prevent it-there is nothing like magazines, confection or anything else grocers usually have in this zone.

Fixture idea for impulse sales at a POP with a straight counter.

Fixture idea for impulse sales at a POP with a straight counter.

 In the above example you can picture glass cases where the wooden counter is now. One thing that was strange-and again I don’t if laws prevented it being in front of the counter or not-was the fact a rack of magazines with  High Times, Cannabis Now and other cannabis orientated titles was some 10 feet away, behind the counter. Since no one could go back there and browse the titles I”m wondering if they were even trying to sell them. Is it prevented by law or is simply because the cannabis shops in general are mostly in a cottage industry mode and not particularly attuned to how to drive impulse sales.

Since each transaction is carried on in one to one fashion-one customer at time at the counter with the associate guiding and procuring the products- it seems like shrink would not be a problem if you offered magazines of course, edibles like some of the chocolates and the pain treatments.

From what I observed the transactions can take a while as people study product offerings. But another idea came to mind and that would a way of offering those who already know what they want-to order from either in line if it’s busy or maybe from an adjacent counter where-like you’ll see in some airport eating areas now or store- like 365-an IPad.

In this case you could do category headings for the different products and then just list the top three in each category-maybe some small description and allow those who had a clear idea of what they are looking for-to order ahead so when they came to the counter their order would be pulled and ready for purchase.

Although retail has entered a new world with cannabis shops, as the momentum builds for across the board legalization across the country this is an industry that demands many of the same kinds of services, procedures and manufacturing that others like the grocery use as well. It’s one that will not only generate money but jobs and services inline with what goes on in retail now.

Speaking about the Future what about drone deliveries of cannabis products? With the data Facebook, Amazon and Google have about the population it seems all that’s missing is a thumb print-like those TSA takes for it’s Known Traveler program-on file and then when the drone arrives with the goods-the shopper touches a screen on the drone-like your Apple phone-and the products are released from their hold in the drone.

The next post will look at two Boulder area stores.

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