Cannabis consumers may seem like a special subset of customers, but they’re actually pretty ordinary in terms of their retail expectations. They want helpful, efficient, inspiring experiences—just like any shopper. That’s why upscale dispensaries need the savvy insights and experiences of retail industry veterans. For The Source shops in Nevada, owner Green Growth Brands’ extensive retail roots that give them an edge in anticipating and exceeding expectations.
“In Vegas, we really reach every kind of consumer,” explains Courtney Jones, Senior Purchasing Manager for The Source. “We may have someone in from Missouri, Florida or Idaho who may not have any cannabis background at all. But we’ll also see that seasoned veteran on vacation from LA who is used to their shop and then comes into ours, and it’s a totally different experience.” Compared to many dispensaries, Jones says, “our store is clean, open, bright—it’s very welcoming. A lot of new customers say when they come in that they expected it to be darker and a little sketchier. But at our stores, we’ve pushed aside those stereotypes.”
Not all dispensaries are equal, and the aesthetic either attracts or intimidates potential clientele—even in a city like Las Vegas that has evolved from a casino town with a certain reputation into a destination for leisure and entertainment.
“If you go to a dispensary in California, a lot of them are the epitome of a ‘stoner shop.’ You may still feel like you’re doing something illegal. But in our stores, we’ve broken down that barrier,” Jones notes. “A lot of people say we remind them of an Apple Store. There’s a kiosk in the middle and we’re here to help you with whatever you need.”
Inspiration from Outside the Cannabis Industry
The comparison with Apple is apt, whose own retail history began as an industry cautionary tale. Early partnerships with Sears and Circuit City mostly fell flat—all the more evident given neither is still in business. Apple knew its products and customers, but bringing everything in-house and launching their own chain of stores was daring and daunting. That’s why Apple recruited Mickey Drexler, CEO of Gap, for its board, and Drexler’s stamp was unmistakable. Indeed, if you had removed the Apple logo and products from those first flagships stores and replaced it all with meticulously folded tees and jeans, it would have looked a lot like a Gap. That’s because the winning rules of retail strategy and customer service hold true, almost regardless of the product.
The same way Apple continues to tweak its retail formula to make shopping its stores as easy (and informative) as possible, Green Growth Brands and The Source are working hard to deliver customer-first practices—some similar to what Apple adopted, some uniquely its own:
• Educate every customer, new and old
Comparing The Source dispensaries to other boutique retailers, “The only thing different is the product we sell,” says Jones. “If you come in with your grandmother, we’re going to have someone there she’ll feel comfortable talking to. We have customer advisors who are 21, but we also have some who are 65 or 70. Even if she has pain, she may still be apprehensive because she doesn’t want to get high.” So the Source offers education classes and staff who will sit down with customers and answer any questions they have, at a pace that makes them feel comfortable.”We want to ensure everyone gets exactly what they need,” Jones adds. “It’s what sets us apart.”
• Manage the cash-only dilemma
Next to the diversity of products and delivery methods, perhaps the biggest surprise for those new to cannabis is that it remains a cash-only business. Due to federal laws prohibiting (at least, for now) traditional banks from doing business in this industry, credit cards and debit cards aren’t accepted. But The Source offers two ATMs on-site to ensure convenient and reliable access to cash. While some states are exploring legislation to allow banks or credit unions to do electronic business with companies in the cannabis supply chain for the time being, making cash payments as convenient as possible is paramount.
• Respond to trends and timely opportunities
Like Chicago and Orlando, Las Vegas is a convention city, enviable among market researchers because they’re often the point of origin for trends before they become trends. That influential mix of industries and individuals creates the perfect opportunity for retailers like The Source to fine tune their approach to events and holidays that have retail potential.
“We look at events and holidays and tailor our promotions,” says Jones. “Next week is Electric Daisy Carnival, and we have promotions planned for specific items that are portable to take to EDC—disposable pens, tablets, CBD balms, because they’re going to be sore. This past weekend was Cinco de Mayo and we had a strain called ‘Margaritas.’ It was also the Kentucky Derby, so we had an online content corner piece on how to make a CBD Mint Julep.”
“The more we’re involved in everyday holidays, and not just cannabis holidays,” says Jones, “the more we’ll improve acceptance everywhere.”