As Ontario expands beyond 140 cannabis stores, we are watching retailers gain experience and savvy when it comes to delivering solid cannabis education and practical product knowledge. For Labour Day, we introduce you to local businesses that are getting high marks when it comes to helping customers find what they’re looking for.
Ancaster Joint, Ancaster, Ont.
To meet their customers’ unique and diverse learning styles, the family-owned Ancaster Joint has set up a variety of in-store educational tools to help support customers’ learning, both at the point of sale and in an ongoing capacity.
Since so many customers base their cannabis purchases on THC levels, the Ancaster Joint created an in-store Education Corner to educate them on the many other qualities that factor into cannabis consumption. Visual and visceral learners can smell different terpenes and learn about the roles they play in cannabis aroma, flavour and potential effects. Customers can also explore different consumption methods to encourage them to try something new.
Ancaster Joint also has great events for engaging customers in the works — from informative educational sessions to hands-on workshops aimed solely at creating community and destigmatizing cannabis.
With their varied customer base, which includes the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas, Ancaster Joint employees know that, above all, they need to develop a unique rapport with each guest. “Although our staff hold knowledge about cannabis, only our customers can determine what feels good for their bodies, is right for their unique lifestyles and is fitting for the goals of their personal cannabis experiences,” says store manager Kate MacLaggan.
Friendly Stranger, Queen Street West, Toronto
Since Friendly Stranger opened over 26 years ago as a cannabis accessories shop, it has been a consistent space for cannabis activism, community and culture. Now that they are licensed for cannabis retail, the growing team is bringing Friendly Stranger’s homegrown cannabis culture to Burlington and London, Ont., as well as a new Church Street location in the heart of Toronto’s LGBTQ2IA+ community. So how does an iconic store scale its nurturing, community-focused formula without losing its knack for education? “We have a pretty intense training program that each one of our experienced associates goes through before they hit the floor,” says Kathryn Long, vice-president of marketing and communications.
With each purchase, Friendly Stranger gives out flyers and written materials to educate the customer about consumption or the products they’ve selected. Each shopper also gets a Puff Puff Passport, an educational consumption journal that is only found at Friendly Stranger. It contains about 30 pages of key information about cannabis and cannabis accessories, followed by fun activity pages (for adults only).
Friendly Stranger has also built a “community room” in many of their shops, where they can host Cannabis 101 sessions (although these will be virtual for the remainder of 2020). Their goal is to go the extra mile to make guests feel like they are not only shopping for products but are a part of the cannabis community.
Dutch Love Cannabis Company, Yonge and Dundas Square, Toronto
Dutch Love Cannabis Company, formerly known as Hobo Cannabis Company, is a brand that was born with education and approachability baked into its ethos. That’s due, in part, to its ownership by the well-established Donnelly Group, with its decades of hospitality experience. All 11 locations across Canada are built to serve a wide variety of customer interests. “We have always been advocates for education and approachability,” says Jex Woods, who leads their Ontario operations. “We aim to make the cannabis buying experience disarming, compassionate and human.”
Woods admits that while the pandemic challenged their customer service, it didn’t slow their offering of weekly and bi-monthly seminars, now presented virtually by Dutch Love and colleagues. The Dutch Love staff also educates guests in-store by using tablet-based tools like The Decision Tree. This intent-based technology allows guests to choose a product based on their current mood and helps them target the experience they are after.