Despite challenges such as rapidly changing regulations, evolving public health requirements and economic uncertainty, cannabis retailers say the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to positive changes in their business models and motivated regulators to open up new opportunities to serve consumers.

These new services, which range from online ordering to home delivery, roadside stands and even drive-ins, can help cannabis retailers maintain and even increase sales during a pandemic.

I think it was positive, Talley Wettlaufer, senior vice president of retail at Curaleaf, the state’s cannabis operator, told Marijuana Business Daily.

From a retail standpoint, this has challenged us to adapt and create more opportunities to provide a high level of customer service and continue to meet our customers and patients where they are.

These events were investigated:

  • Start selling cannabis online for pickup or delivery if regulators allow it.
  • Adapt to z. B. new purchasing trends. B. Preference for bulk orders when purchases become less frequent.

With vaccination rates rising and the coronavirus crisis over, cannabis vendors are waiting to see if customers will continue to buy cannabis during a pandemic, and some vendors told MJBizDaily they expect at least some of these trends to persist.

According to Wettlaufer, it is important for us to offer online service and delivery when we can, while providing an exceptional in-store experience.

Electronic commerce hinge

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst to accelerate the transition from retail marijuana to e-commerce, says Alexis Mora, marketing manager at Harborside, a California-based dispensary chain.

Surprisingly, Harborside began placing online orders about a month before the government’s March 2020 executive order on mandatory health care.

In March, our pickups and deliveries exceeded store sales by about 30 to 40 percent, Mora said.

While online ordering has already become the norm in many other retail sectors, Curaleaf’s Wettlaufer notes that cannabis retailers as a whole are a bit behind in the transition to e-commerce.

Had there not been a global pandemic, it probably would have been slower than last year, when people really had to adapt and use technology, she said.

Regulated marijuana stores in the US and Canada are generally limited to certain jurisdictions, so cannabis e-commerce is not yet comparable to Amazon or eBay. Legal interstate and international electronic commerce in cannabis remains a goal for the future.

But customers want to buy cannabis locally and have it delivered to their homes if allowed, or pick it up at the curb or in the store.

In some areas, the pandemic has successfully combined the sale of electronic marijuana with the quintessential American innovation, the breakthrough.

Harborside Pharmacy in Desert Hot Springs opened a cash register in late 2019, and Mora said about 70 percent of the facility’s customers use it.

When it debuted in nearby Arizona in September 2020, co-founder and CEO Evan Shahara said it started slowly, with a handful of orders a day, and took off in Tampa.

He stated that on a normal Friday over 200 tickets are issued.

Shahara expects the campaign to remain popular even after the pandemic is over.

We are even adding a second window to meet the demand, he added.

Change in cost structure, new customers

Cannabis retailers experienced impressive growth during the pandemic, helping them avoid the steady decline in demand that has plagued other retail sectors.

But marijuana buyers have also changed their buying habits in response to the pandemic. The data shows that they buy less marijuana, but spend more per purchase.

Because people were more afraid of getting infected, they didn’t buy as much, or if they did, they bought in bulk, says Steve White, CEO of MSO Harvest Health & Recreation, a marijuana harvesting, wellness and recreation company.

Mora said Harborside has seen strong performance in color widescreen, particularly in the 14-gram package, as well as changes in other categories.

People don’t necessarily buy pre-rolled one-gram hinges because people don’t share them anymore, she said.

What you see in terms of trends are your dog turds, which are your 0.3 or 0.5 gram packs where you buy a pack, and these, one for (my) friend, one for me.

In Kurallife, Wettlaufer noted that the frequency of client visits remained relatively stable during the pandemic. But she believes the pandemic has helped accelerate the influx of new customers, especially since many marijuana shops are now recognized as regular services.

It was clearly a very stressful time, with many people involved in many things, and people’s health and well-being were (high) on the list.

Other external factors likely contributed to an increase in marijuana sales during the pandemic, said Jacqueline Pechota, who as executive director of the Canadian Cannabis Retailers Association represents a group of largely independent marijuana retailers in British Columbia.

For example, she noted that the increase in cannabis sales in Canada in 2020 is due not only to the pandemic, but also to a significant increase in the number of licensed cannabis shops in large markets such as Ontario.

But what I’ve heard anecdotally from members of the public is that they think twice about the source of cannabis, which they didn’t have to do before the pandemic, Pechota said.

As in many U.S. markets, regulators in B.C. created new opportunities for cannabis retailers during the pandemic by allowing online payment for in-store purchases.

B.C. has a long history of illegal marijuana cultivation, and Pechota says the unregulated market is still thriving.

She hopes the provincial government will see regulated cannabis e-commerce as more than a temporary, pandemic solution and allow private retailers to offer delivery.

I suspect that our regulators see this proposal as a mechanism to compete with the unregulated market, and also as a measure to curb sprawl, which I think means that it will remain in our new standard.


Curaleaf’s Wettlaufer believes the future of cannabis retailing will be a balance between the convenience of online shopping and the high-tech experience of in-store shopping – exactly what consumers want in the wake of the cannabis pandemic.

There are days when you want to look, talk, discover, become a real buyer – and then there are days when you just want to buy, and buy fast and smooth, she said.

Now that concerns about COVID-19 have subsided, Steve White, CEO of Harvest, says he has found that consumers are returning to stores more often and buying less when they do.

However, he suspects that we will not return to our pre-death behavior because we have developed new habits in the past year.

White sees the pandemic as a test for cannabis companies and makes an analogy to home.

COVID is one of many unexpected weather events that will test the resilience of your home, he added.

So for anyone who has seen it, it may have revealed flaws in the process – but next time we will be prepared for the same thing to happen again.

Of course, it will never happen in exactly the same way again, White continued.

But by doing so, you have strengthened your foundation and walls to ensure that other types of unexpected weather conditions cannot damage your structure.

Solomon Israel can be reached at [email protected].

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