What CA Retail should learn now

Jay Lauren
First legal sale in CO

Jan 1, 2014: the first legal sale in Colorado. Retail in CO evolved quickly, and CA retailers should take note. Photo Copyright CNN.com

Lessons from Colorado in 2015: Year 2 of legal sales

As CA’s first year of legal adult-use comes to a close, we’ve seen both progress and bottlenecks in the development of our retail industry…all of which was to be expected. It’s not easy taking an existing industry like CA and turning the switch into regulation. It’s ongoing work, both for regulators and the industry becoming organized.
We’ve seen this before, when CO went legal in 2014, with the rush of enthusiasm that followed. We were there again in 2015, and noticed the difference a year made, on a whirlwind tour of 100 stores in Denver (video link). CA’s industry today is where CO was in 2015, and there are many lessons to digest from the precedent, that CA retailers should take note of:
  • We noticed a dramatic culture change after Year 1. Stores owners had gained confidence in their business status. Marijuana Retail had become like any other business.
  • We noticed a remarkable change in customers types. Busy locations spread business to neighboring locations (and made them busy too), all courtesy of Weedmaps.
  • We noticed the signs. CO in 2014 had so many stores with vinyl banners, that in 2015 were starting to be replaced by permanent signs.
  • We noticed renovation and branding. Stores had begun investing into a better retail experience. Flagship stores appeared.
  • We noticed the beginning of consolidation, as the first wave of owners sold and exited. Chain stores grew. By the end of 2016 (Year 2), there were over 140 stores that were part of chains, some with as many as 18 locations.
  • We noticed the beginning of marketing beyond Weedmaps, attention to websites, and the development of loyalty programs. As fellow marketers, we realized Store Owners didn’t always make the most of the data we’d provided. We signed up for everything, but offers to loyal customers were few, and not personalized.
CA is now at the start of Year 2, like CO in 2015. Stores are busy, there are new customers each day, and some have lineups. There is unlicensed market competition, but not as much competition between legal retailers. It’s easy for owners to get complacent at this point, but the lessons of CO in 2015 need to be digested: competition is coming. Retailers in CA must step up their game: Year 2 of legal sales will be a defining year in business.
The stores that thrive will do 2 things well: they will understand who their customer is, especially their new customers, and will do a better job retaining customers. Our next event on January 24th in Los Angeles is dedicated to these 2 things: our speakers will focus on the 1st time buyer, and what retailers need do to keep customers coming back. If you’re a retailer in CA, you shouldn’t miss it.