Some of the highest success rates in Canadian cannabis retail come from applying experience gained from service industries. Nate Henry, Director of Operations for Lucid Cannabis, in addition to being a well-acclaimed chef, has extensive operational management experience, applying key retail strategies he’s learned to the Lucid Cannabis chain of stores, with 15 locations spanning three of the western provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
Everything Nate learned in business, he learned in the restaurant industry, and he claims it’s not really all that different in cannabis retail. He says,
“It’s about systems, operating procedures, inventory control, and sales. Everything costs money, so inventory control is always top of mind, and it needs to be well-managed. Greenline helps us do that.”
Operating across three provinces is like running completely separate companies, especially considering the evolving rules and regulations around compliance for each province. Demographics can be vastly different from one province to the next, and this holds true for Lucid especially with their BC location, where consumers tend to thrive on organic and local more than the other locations.
For their increasing expansion plans, Nate says location is critical, regardless of saturation, people tend to go with the most convenient location, or the least expensive product. Real estate options aren’t always flexible, but Lucid made a choice to focus on location at the outset, and they continue to be profitable in all 3 of the provinces they serve. Lucid also paid careful attention to the layout of their stores with well-positioned product in beautiful glass cases matched with well-placed lighting combinations. All Lucid stores have an elegant but edgy appeal with a consistent mountain theme combining sports and nature. It’s a great vibe and well-suited to their demographics.
Set store managers up for success
Having an effective strategy around ordering for multiple locations is critical. Data is a powerful tool, and retailers need to leverage a data-driven approach to their decision-making to keep up with rapidly changing industry trends and consumer habits. Lucid drives retail success by trusting their managers and making them accountable to the ordering process. All Lucid managers control their own inventory, for each store, on a weekly basis.
“The reports in Greenline produce all the information I need to make the next purchase. The analytics for us is really helpful, but I still ask the managers to do their inventory every Wednesday. I want them to know exactly what they’re carrying, what they are in excess of, or running out of.”
With the volume of changes in product availability every week, cannabis retailers need to make sure their staff are on top of it. Strategizing how to fill the vault is also an important consideration Lucid made, and by placing product alphabetized, by category, everything is easy to find quickly. By having their managers involved with the ordering process and controlling their own inventory weekly, they are more cognizant of what’s in their vaults.
Reports – getting crafty with cannabis retail data
Lucid Cannabis managers need to learn how to extrapolate the data for the stores that are under their responsibility. Greenline helps them to be accountable by arming them with the information they need to focus on their sales strategy. Analytics in Greenline help cost-conscious retailers assess the costs and margins of the products they carry.
Reports are valuable to gain insight into the performance of stores and Nate likes the volume of data he’s able to see in one place,
“I like using Greenline’s ‘Sales by category’ report, you’re able to see each category and the volume of sales for it, you can see where your quantity growth is, which categories are moving, and which ones have better margins than others.”
Among Greenline’s powerful reports is the Reorder report. It shows a breakdown of recommended products to reorder based on sales trends.
As for compliance reporting in Greenline, Nate says,
“Compliance reporting is easy; the numbers are right there in Greenline – it’s great.”
Lucid’s success, in large part, is due to the careful attention they pay towards trends and their ability to pivot in the face of economic and industry change. As has long been the case, a huge part of the market favours the cheapest products with the highest THC, but that trend is changing and leaning more into the craft side. Now that craft is coming back, people don’t really seem to care as much what it costs. As the industry continues to evolve, we’ll likely see more demand and more options in craft offerings.
Data is everything
Sales and projection comparisons month over month can be overwhelmingly unpredictable, so using your data properly keeps you ahead of the game. Retail operators need to pay attention to the constantly changing trends in the cannabis industry, like Lucid Cannabis, and be ready to adapt at the same pace.
One great example is how Lucid Cannabis uses data in Greenline, for their own research and to better communicate with Licensed Producers (LPs). It gives them an opportunity to bring business analytics into their meetings with LPs, so they know in advance what the background is on specific products and their performance. They can use the data captured in Greenline to cross reference with similar products in the AGLC catalogue, and know which SKUs are represented across all locations. Being empowered with the knowledge the data brings, enables Lucid to go into these meetings knowing exactly where they are at.
Culture is key in cannabis retail
Curating a culture is particularly important to be able to foster long-term customer relationships. Lucid uses education and experience to form the foundation of building a customer’s trust, so that over time, budtenders can use their knowledge to nurture these relationships.
For cannabis retailers, what is equally as important as building relationships with customers is the need to cultivate a culture from within their own team. And there’s no better way to drive your cannabis retail business forward than to motivate your employees to drive that culture forward. Retailers can help build morale by continually improving methods to educate and empower budtenders so they can make authentic recommendations and sustain positive customer relations over the long term.
“Budtenders need to be taken care of, they’re the ones on the front lines, they’re the ones that are growing our businesses, they have the job because they want to learn about the product, and they love the industry.”
Cannabis retail staff also need motivation and retail owners can follow how Nate supports and encourages his team by offering product knowledge updates, sales advice, and ways to improve and grow within the company. If you don’t have a process in place to develop your employees then build one, it could dramatically improve your retail success.
Retail operating strategies – training and retention
The ease of the Greenline software system helps Lucid store managers perform well in their roles, from budtenders running sales through the POS to store managers running analytics reports. Implementing Greenline’s role-based online certification (Greenline University) into their retail procedures helps Lucid ensure retail success across all employee levels. Lucid has enjoyed low turnover with their store staff because they know their team is what builds the culture needed to thrive, they have a solid strategy in place for training and education, and they treat their team with respect.
Search functionality at the POS
Budtenders need to capitalize on the buying experience since they are the first point of customer interaction – making them a critical source for repeat business. As power users of the POS system, they need a simple tool that facilitates a fast and effective sales strategy. Budtenders can appreciate that Greenline’s POS Search functionality was designed specifically to make life easier for them. The POS Search tool gives them the ability to instantly sort and filter in a variety of ways, so they can find product details faster, and improve the speed and quality of their interactions with customers.
“Our staff are motivated, says Nate, pulling up customer info in Greenline to see what a customer had last time, or what consumption methods they prefer, the software definitely helps budtenders start that conversation, and the customers appreciate it.”
Marketing with SMS Outreach
One way to get ahead of the retail game is to use smart marketing strategies. Always innovating, Greenline is constantly upgrading the platform with tools to set retailers up with new ways to be more successful. The new SMS Outreach feature provides an excellent way to set up and quickly send personalized messages, announcements, or targeted promotions to interested consumers.
With SMS Outreach, retailers have the potential to engage more closely with their clientele. Up next, Lucid is looking forward to Greenline’s new e-commerce platform, BLAZE ECOM, coming out soon.
Making the case for paper menus
Lucid Cannabis has a slick and effective social media presence with creativity, competitive offers, and informative posts, but paper menus are another useful way to take advantage of setting differentiation in cannabis retail marketing.
Taking a page out of restaurants, Lucid Cannabis has a unique way to showcase their products using beautiful leather-bound menus, similar to a wine menu but for cannabis, and their customers appreciate it. It’s a clever menu design and very effective to highlight the various programs they have, showcase new products, and build loyalty. Greenline also integrates with BudSense, giving retailers customizable print and digital menu options for their marketing initiatives.
Importance of cannabis events
Since the early days of cannabis legalization, the evolution of the cannabis industry is definitely something to be proud of from a retailer’s perspective. Coming from a time where liquor was seemingly the only key control indicator, fast forward to 2023, cannabis retail in Canada, although still struggling, is also thriving in many ways, and forging new ground that further differentiates it from the liquor industry.
At the first Lift&Co Expo, most of the guest speakers were primarily from the Canadian liquor industry. Now, at its first event for 2023, (where Greenline served as Silver Sponsor in Vancouver), Lift Expo has evolved to introduce powerful experts in the cannabis space providing a platform to connect and have those important discussions that help advance the industry at all levels.
Industry events and associations are so important in the cannabis industry. There is still so much to learn and processes to improve, and that can only be achieved through networking, education, and lobbying to effect change. Retailers need to get involved with associations like the Retail Cannabis Council of British Columbia (RCC-BC), formerly (ACCRES), and the Alberta Cannabis Council, (ACC), who advocate on behalf of cannabis retailers. It’s all about building culture, and that applies to any industry.
Budtenders build culture
Brands rely on budtenders as much as retailers because they provide the educational tools that budtenders can use to assist customers to confidently describe the variety of products, their use, and their effects. Budtenders can also leverage the power of the Greenline system to educate the customer, record their buying habits, and ultimately, develop stronger customer relationships. By building a sense of trust and accountability both Lucid employees and customers benefit.
Successful cannabis retailers like Lucid Cannabis, with 15 stores across 3 provinces, retain their success through a well-structured team working together on the goal of long-term success, and by relying on a powerful software application like Greenline to take them there. It benefits everyone, and with plenty of motivational and educational resources for the team, Lucid budtenders can be more consistent – sharing their knowledge and expertise, building trust, and having fun while doing it. As Nate says,
“Culture is key, so make sure your culture is strong.”
by Lisa Martyn