“It is important for us that every customer understands what products they are buying and how much is safe to consume.”
Budtender, Baker and Blazer Cannabis Co.
Step into your local Authorized Cannabis Store, and you’ll find a wide selection of legal cannabis products and accessories. But beyond providing a safe shopping experience, retailers are also offering an opportunity to explore, learn and connect with the community. Here’s a taste of what you might find next time you visit a legal bricks-and-mortar shop.
What are customers looking for in a store?
Authorized Cannabis Stores serve consumers at all stages in their cannabis journey, and meeting their needs with education is the priority. “We have a wide variety of consumers come into the store, from cannabis-curious types to everyday consumers,” says budtender Tim Hui at Baker and Blazer Cannabis Co. “It is important for us that every customer understands what products they are buying and how much is safe to consume.”
Hui says the North York, Ont., store is stocked with informative handouts exploring topics such as the compounds found in cannabis, consumption methods and common effects. Occasionally, brand reps visit to dish out company-specific information and uninfused product samples.
Budtender Roger Williams agrees on the importance of education, noting that his customers at Cannabis Cove in Wasaga Beach, Ont., also like to chat about accessories. He says that while many visitors are drawn in by his Authorized Cannabis Store’s prominent selection of bongs — a display they call “bong shui” — they also come for advice. Shopping in-store gives you an opportunity to chat with budtenders in-depth about which accessories go best with different consumption methods, discuss storage and cleaning considerations, and get a good look at product materials and design.
Budtender, Windswept Cannabis
“Throughout the year, we [collect] food for the local food bank. Every donation is matched one for one, and participants have a chance to win swag packages.”
How do stores connect with their local communities?
Beyond cannabis, education and accessories, many Authorized Cannabis Stores offer merch that promotes other small businesses. At Windswept Cannabis, in Parry Sound, Ont., hoodies, shirts and hats are on the menu. Bonus: Budtender Tiffany McKinnon says the apparel at Windswept is created nearby, so buyers can support two local businesses with one purchase.
Contests are another way retailers connect with the community. “Throughout the year, we conduct many giveaways by collecting food for the local food bank,” says McKinnon. “Every donation is matched one for one, and participants have a chance to win swag packages.” Windswept Cannabis also runs customer appreciation days, where visitors can try complimentary (non-cannabis-infused) treats and enter for a chance to win gift bundles filled with merchandise and other goodies.
Retailers can’t legally hand out samples of cannabis products, but they are allowed to cultivate a vibe. Many stores operate as a social hub and creative space.
“Baker and Blazer is a place where members of the community can feel comfortable. [It’s a] safe space to come hang out, roll up, charge a phone or just talk with their local budtenders,” says Hui. “Anyone over 19 is welcome.” The store also boasts a collaborative art feature. “We always love when artists from the neighbourhood come by and add to our chalk wall,” he adds.
Budtender, Cannabis Cove
“I feel a store should meld with and enhance the environment where it is located.”
Why is it important for stores to offer more than just products?
All the budtenders we spoke with agree that a welcoming atmosphere benefits customers and their community. For Williams, that means designing stores to reflect or enhance the local culture and environment. “I am a firm believer in ‘when in Rome, act like a Roman.’ I feel a store should meld with and enhance the environment where it is located,” he says. “At Cannabis Cove, we wanted to make it more about the space and the [consumer’s] experience.”
McKinnon agrees. “Building strong connections with our community members is crucial for any small-town business,” she says. “As [an] independent store, it is important for us to offer fair prices, a wide range of cannabis products, accessories [and] knowledge. Our objective is to create a comfortable and positive environment that encourages engagement and fosters trust within the industry.”