Cannabis4Less started out as PeaceLeaf in 2018 when they received one of the first of only 15 licenses available through a lottery held by the city of Grand Prairie, Alberta.
It wasn’t an easy road at the start of legalization in Alberta, as there was a moratorium imposed on licensees on account of a low cannabis supply. Cannabis retailers could only operate as a paraphernalia store until the moratorium was lifted. The Cannabis4Less owners were smart in their early approach to working under the moratorium. They had to maintain their facility for 10 months before operating, so they secured a payment deferral arrangement for their retail store lease – a benefit they gained from developing a strong relationship with their landlord. Greenline also helped PeaceLeaf by providing a deferral until they could gain access to the cannabis supply, and be in a position to make use of the software and make sales. Once the moratorium was lifted, Peaceleaf was in a position to open their 2 stores (Railtown and High Prairie) by September, 2019.
When it comes to selecting cannabis-specific POS software – always read the fine print, initial bonus terms can sometimes lock you in to a system for a long term, or training and support could incur extra fees over time. Free POS software systems may require expensive upgrades, based on streamlining operational processes, where some functionality could be inaccessible to carry out evolving business functions.
When they set out to find a POS system, Roberto Lopez, VP Operations, Co-founder and Vice President, and Lucas Hinks, Co-founder and President of Cannabis4Less, met with Calvin Ho, COO of Greenline, at the Lift Expo in Edmonton, Alberta, to talk about POS features, compliance and reporting, and inventory management, and have been partners ever since. Lucas pointed out,
“The software seemed really easy to use, it had a Canadian focus, and it was constantly being upgraded. When we started using Greenline software, it was just getting better and better all the time.”
While competitive POS system providers will have similar functionality, it’s important to consider that the cheapest solution isn’t usually the best. Roberto Lopez, who also has a great deal of experience using a variety of software systems, adds,
“What is important to us is the ability to be efficient, especially with the POS system. We’ve been with Greenline for a long time. We’re happy to pay for services that help our business.”
Roberto can’t say enough about how well Greenline’s support team has helped him over the years.
Greenline support is excellent, it’s so easy. They answer right away – within 2 minutes! With software programs there are usually some issues at some points, but they are usually easy to fix and if we have trouble fixing them, which is rare, we just ask Greenline, they are super quick to help us and get it working every time.”
Competitive software systems offer similar features so it’s wise to review them in a demo so comparisons can be made, questions can be addressed, and the best selection can be made from a business perspective. Greenline is proud to have a fully hands-on sales team that guides retailers to make the right choice for their business, and that includes drawing from the powerful network of partners in the Greenline Marketplace. Quite often retailers will end up paying more in the long run, unless they focus on features and functionality, training and support, scalability, and the value needed to run their businesses profitably.
As for many cannabis retailers across Canada, Cannabis4Less saw a big lift in sales as a result of Covid in 2020, in spite of all the restrictions in place. They were doing really well and started looking for another location.
Anything can happen when you start a retail business, and unlike their early beginnings of setting up for cannabis retail and facing unpredictable roadblocks – including development applications, council meetings, and appeals, Cannabis4Less was very lucky with their third location. It was already a half built-out space designed for cannabis retail – all framed, all steel, and with everything in place. The first Cannabis4Less opened on March 22nd, 2020.
“It just took off, Lucas said, “exceeding our expectations – it surpassed sales at our Peaceleaf location”.
At their Peaceleaf location, sales were dropping, naturally through attrition, but also largely because of their newly-created value model. In spite of losing sales at their flagship location, Lucas added,
“Our total sales skyrocketed.”
There were a few attempts to open a new location in Clairmont, Ab., and Cannabis4Less persevered by finding an excellent space to get approved for a cannabis retail license. Their persistence paid off and they were lucky not only in terms of location, as it’s set near a liquor store and a new gas station, but also in that it was formerly a pharmacy, and again, with much of it already built out.
To keep the look of the store unified with their other locations, they tried to maintain the same type of fixtures and cases, but this time Covid adversely affected their situation due to ongoing distribution problems nationwide. They managed to find a local company and were able to maintain a consistent look for their store, and it looks really nice. It’s classic, fresh, and simple, showcasing a wide variety of products – thoughtfully displayed in beautiful cases – providing consumers the ability to learn about product offerings and easily make a selection.
In much the same way Greenline builds features based on customer feedback, Cannabis4Less listened to their customers and relied on input from the cannabis community. By shaping their business around their new value model, they successfully created a unique customer experience.
The original name for Peaceleaf is a clever take on their location in the Peace Region of Alberta and it was well-received in the early days, but as more people developed unique consumption patterns, the results were such that the majority of people in this region simply wanted a bargain. Intrigued by what they learned from looking at what their competitors were doing, and what their customers were saying, the Cannabis4Less team leveraged the discount concept – implementing their own value model to cater to their customers. At this stage they noticed the changes in the industry, and changes in consumer habits, so in an effort to emphasize their value model, Cannabis4Less was born.
There is a lot more to building successful retail strategies than simply lowering prices and hoping for the best. To their credit, Lucas and Roberto were able to draw from their strong backgrounds and experience in b2b2c retail with the skills to develop a cannabis retail strategy focused on the consumer, but they also maintain careful attention to operational details, while at the same time keeping an eye on the competition.
With competition close by, Cannabis4Less is holding strong, and they know that good customer service, knowledge, selection, and price, are key factors which together contribute to their success. Not only do they listen to customers, they listen to their employees too. Having knowledgeable staff in both cannabis and retail is a lucky combination, and without hesitation Lucas said,
“We have the best team – a key reason for our company’s success. We still have some of our original crew, and I think we built an awesome culture, together.”
Inventory software should facilitate the growth and expansion of your business. Greenline lets you manage all inventory and view up-to-date product movement and history across all locations – all on one master inventory screen.
When asked about his favourite feature in the Greenline software, Roberto was quick to reply,
“I love the reporting, I’m an analytics guy, so we use Headset as well and it’s so nice to have – it’s really good. Love the data in there and it’s helpful, but for everything that we use on the day-to-day, the Greenline reports are great, I look at those all the time.”
Lucas mentioned, “You can see all the info that you need, it’s really easy to use and it’s all right there. You can click into the product to edit it if you need to. It has all the locations in one spot – it’s easy to filter if you want just one location, and the transfers are really easy to use too. The reports are great.”
Roberto agreed and added,
“I like that everything is exportable in Greenline, so we can do whatever we want with that data. We can format it anyway we want, so it’s really easy with inventory, customers, and products, and it helps us keep an eye on our margins.”
When it comes down to business intelligence there is a lot of detailed data that can be useful to drive sales. Multi-location retailers need to cater their product margins to local demographics. Greenline features multiple ways to view margins. Product sales reports show margin percentage values for each product. Margin values are also shown on category sales and vendor reports.
In addition to tracking margins across locations, Roberto said he found the Net sales report and the Financial overview were most useful, and he likes using the Products overview and the Vendor reports so they can see what has been sold in a specific time period to see if their sales are actually on target.
Much like Roberto, Lucas also relies on reporting in Greenline and, to supplement some of the data, he also uses Headset,
“We can see how we’re doing against the entire Alberta market. It’s nice to be able to see what the top sales are like, what the top sellers are carrying and then we can just make sure we have those, or if we don’t have them – why don’t we have them?”
In a highly-regulated market it’s important to carefully manage and track your inventory as best you can, obviously there’s going to be some missing products and variations, but Cannabis4Less uses a retail strategy that helps them stay on track. They do their inventory counts every day, coupled with the use of Greenline’s barcode scan rate tracking feature. By tracking employee scan rates they can identify discrepancies and keep the potential for lost products to a minimum.
Retailers using other POS systems lose customer trust because they cannot set THC and cannabinoid levels per location. With Greenline’s new feature, you can also easily set different retail prices for products at different locations.
Justice Lambert, a seasoned budtender who has been with Peaceleaf since the beginning, said
“Prior to the THC/CBD per location feature, we ran into the issue of having a range of THC/CBD values in different locations, so our menus didn’t always reflect accurate THC and cannabinoid levels. But those days are over! We are boasting to our customers that absolutely everything is accurate THC now, and we have been getting positive feedback.
Customers love that our THC on the menu is exactly what they are getting when they make a purchase, and they no longer have to ask budtenders about the THC of products. This new development in Greenline is a huge improvement, not just for customers but for the staff too.”
Getting to know your demographic allows cannabis retailers to build effective tools for customer retention. Cannabis4Less, like many cannabis retailers, had their accounts reported, shut down, and banned. It might seem counter-productive to stop using social media platforms for promotion, but that isn’t necessarily true when you have a unique target market. What works for many may not be as effective in a unique area. Take Clairmont, for example, a community north of Grand Prairie, with two existing cannabis stores. Clairmont is a high-density residential community with a younger demographic, and represented a lot of opportunity for the right cannabis store. Their discount model has been well-received by customers in the community as Cannabis4Less quickly became the retail store of choice in Clairmont. No matter how much data you analyze, Lucas added,
“In this part of Alberta, most of the customers just want the highest THC for the lowest price.”
With competing locations within your business, it’s important to consider that some locations often require different strategies for differentiation, and cannabis-specific software systems should be able to accommodate managing and scaling multiple locations as effectively as Greenline does. This includes having the ability to gain control over inventory, pricing and much more. Best to have a demo!
Many retailers quickly learn that without a plan or strategy for differentiation, it’s virtually impossible to compete, especially in the cannabis space. Creative strategies will set your shop apart from the rest, to help retain customers and highlight product offerings. Much like Ontario’s Pops Cannabis with their ‘Culture Club’ membership program, and Alberta’s The Local Cannabist with their innovative ‘Effect Wheel’, Cannabis4Less uses their VIP Flyer program to showcase their discount offerings and encourage customers to sign up for promotions and updates.
What their customers enjoy most, as opposed to social media and product feature articles, are the flyers – providing an easy path to discover new, featured, and discounted products, plus it looks great on a phone. All online customers can access the Flyer and qualify for deals on the Cannabis4Less website, but once they sign up for the VIP Flyer program, they can gain access to additional exclusive deals.
Cannabis4Less is pleased with Greenline’s seamless integration with Budvue’s digital menus. Large menu tv displays can feature around 30 to 40 pre-roll varieties, so Cannabis4Less designed a colour-coded labelling system to give their clientele the ability to quickly identify sativa, indica, and hybrid strains. They improved the visibility of the THC values of all in-store products, and the pricing is also listed much larger, so you can easily read it at a glance. They then incorporate this colour-coded labelling system into their flyer initiative, with additional deals for VIP Greenline customers. Their email campaign has been well-received – resulting in an impressive open rate of over 30 percent – well above the industry average.
Greenline’s Customer data feature allows for adding a variety of useful details including name, phone number, email address, physical address and even gender. A customer can be marked for tax exemption (for indigenous clients) and customer notes can also be added. Powerful and valuable metrics can be gained from interacting with and tracking customers such as purchase history, number of visits etc. It’s an invaluable tool. Cannabis4Less sends out their marketing flyer to customers that sign up, and as they continue to improve their customer data gathering, (advice they gratefully received from the Headset team) they gain additional and useful customer analytics. Lucas mentioned that it’s another area that Greenline definitely helped them with their business.
Cannabis4Less has shown that to be successful in cannabis retail, it’s important to do your research and be open-minded. Know your demographic, listen to your customers, learn from both competitors’ mistakes and successes, and design a unique strategy around those factors. Make your customers a priority by making your POS software selection a priority.
Successful cannabis retailers, like Cannabis4Less, are an excellent example to follow with their careful consideration of every aspect of their business. They are focused on continually streamlining operations through the use of Greenline software, not only to stay efficient, compliant, scalable, and profitable, but also to drive profitability and increase economic growth within the communities they serve.
To sum it up, Roberto said,
“Greenline is efficient, easy to use, made for Canadians, and has really good customer service.”
By combining knowledge and technology, the Cannabis4Less team have become leaders in the Canadian cannabis market in the Peace Region. Both new and long-term customers benefit from their unique approach with their new value model, as they provide a high level of education to new customers, plus they act as a strong resource for their long-time cannabis consumers.
Schedule a demo with Greenline’s expert cannabis-specific retail sales team.