bloomin photo dispensary.jpg

 How Should A Typical Dispensary Look? No One Is Sure

November 10th 2018 photo/Isotock/RUBEN RAMOS

By Roger Malespin

 As the ‘green wave’ sweeps over the country and barriers to a legal cannabis market continue to crumble, the marijuana industry is faced with a problem - how should these stores look? This might not seem like a big deal at first glance, but the viability of the industry relies partly on its aesthetics. Are they supposed to look like smoke shops, bakeries, or maybe a jewelry store? This issue is currently being tackled by a new wave of ‘marijuana merchants’, who hope to shape what the typical dispensary space will look like in the coming years.

 One thing is certain, the new wave of merchants don’t want the shops to have a look of seedy illegal activity or personnel who are stereotypes. There are a lot of different ideas, but all of them include a professional look for both the premises and the employees.
“We are yet to become familiar with what a cannabis store should look like,” observed organizer Gwen Morrison, CEO The Store WPP*, Americas and Australasia. “Right now, the experience is inconsistent, as the category extends from the cold dispensary formats to lifestyle boutique.”

 Steve Weisman, CEO of Windy City Cannabis, believes that the best cue for the nascent category is specialty retail, with “the foundation…the knowledge of the employees”. “Having well-educated, very polished staff is incredibly important and it will drive the entire experience,” said Weisman.

Part of the problem is the wide arrange of products available. The range is so wide that businesses are being advised to work themselves into a speciality niche or two, rather than spread their products across as much as possible. One of the reasons for this is that streamlining your product will greatly help with establishing a professional setting. Knowing that you are focusing on edibles, for example, will allow business owners to have a clearer vision of their store layout.

 Having hundreds of different products inevitably leads to less organization, which can be a deathblow to new businesses looking to attract customers. People like to know that they are in a place that knows about the things they are looking for, and the more tightly presented the products are, the more secure the customers will feel about giving their business.

One of the best approaches may come from the highly successful company MedMen. MedMen has been celebrated as the “Apple Store of Weed”, and their quote on business aesthetics is straight and to the point; “we do not run pot shops, we manage class leading retail stores that happen to sell marijuana.”

 No matter what products they are selling, this company treats them all with the same amount of respect as any. There are no pothead stereotypes or Half Baked jokes in it - the edibles are treated like the viable baked goods they are, and CBD products are treated as upscale retail items. This is both a smart strategy for local businesses and an approach that helps the viability of the legal market overall. If customers feel they are walking into a professional establishment, the stigma of marijuana is lessened and even erased as the face of the industry evolves from stoners to business people.

 We can expect the image of what a typical marijuana store looks like to take shape in the near future. Those who are starting or looking to start a small business in the industry would do well to listen to the points made by these successful companies. Like MedMen say, don’t think you aren’t running a pot shop, know you’re running a professional retail establishment.