The Local Cannabist did their homework early on by researching established cannabis retail locations to identify and develop a vision for their location and unique building structure. As a co-owner of The Local Cannabist in Edmonton, Alberta, Scott Treasure had an opportunity to talk to a lot of retailers already in operation across Canada. They also looked at several successful operations in the US and Portugal who had already experienced the growing pains of setting up a cannabis retail environment.
Cannabis retailers are some of the most resilient business owners as many face the unpredictability of timing when it comes to obtaining a license. It can take several months or more to get approval in some cases, all while having to maintain leasing costs for an unoccupied space.
Every retailer will likely be faced with some sort of unexpected hardship when setting up a cannabis retail store and The Local Cannabist (TLC) was no exception as they faced some challenges around zoning requirements for their building – subsequently missing out on the lottery for the first set of licenses in Alberta.
Not everyone is as lucky as TLC in that they own the building that houses their cannabis retail shop. Even so, this didn’t play out so well in the early days when it came to zoning laws and building codes. TLC’s Scott Treasure, along with his sister Dana Treasure, explored the idea of having a cannabis retail shop in their building which was formerly a racquetball club in the basement, along with six courts. The challenge consisted of having a lounge area situated in between all the courts with dead space, and with only half a floor down from the main level, it was inaccessible through the stairwell as a main building entrance. This unique building structure created an inherent problem with zoning laws as it was classified as a ‘below grade space’, meaning ‘anything below the level of the soil’, presenting challenges not only with zoning requirements but also with lighting, as the lack of windows created a barrier to public exposure for customers to be aware of their location.
Once their zoning requirements were satisfied and they received their cannabis retail license, it provided an opportunity for TLC to put a little bit more into the space so they could give a stronger focus on how to set the look and feel.
The design and layout of a cannabis store is a major component that defines and differentiates retailers from one another. The style TLC created for the design of their store is not only unique, modern, and stunning, but more importantly, it’s very effective in setting differentiation from other cannabis retailers.
For the initial store design and layout, TLC was able to draw inspiration from the US to determine what would work for their location and to come up with a solution for not having windows on one side. Using a professional consultant was critical for TLC to take into account the challenges of their space. Strategically placed LED lights became the most viable solution – behind the screens and behind the counter, the LED lighting worked really well to enhance their space. TLC features beautiful, branded custom wood features built into the store and the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Once Covid-19 hit the scene in 2020, TLC faced an additional challenge with space considerations in that they didn’t have enough room to merchandise. This next phase will require health and safety considerations but also provide an area to display more product and different kinds of products. TLC came up with a creative concept to have a merchandising counter with sloped glass and strong lighting to match the original store design. The new counter will facilitate putting in a chiller to showcase all of their edibles, beverages, and some of the concentrates that do better with refrigeration.
When asked how he came to select Greenline, Scott Treasure said he attended all the Alberta cannabis trade shows at the time. It was his responsibility to find a cannabis POS system, and this is where he met the Greenline team to discuss compliance regulations, requirements, and system reports.
The AGLC federal compliance report for Alberta is similar to what the AGCO in Ontario requires for their jurisdiction – a line-by-line breakdown of individual cannabis SKUs provided by the wholesaler. Inventory change reasons are divided into “Quantity additions” and “Quantity reductions”, all of which your POS should track.
Scott said, “The compliance reporting was always a big piece for us and it was imperative for your (Greenline’s) ability to handle that component really well for my guys from the very beginning.” Although we had a competent manager in place, he was less technologically savvy in terms of reporting, so it was going to be a problem for him if we weren’t able to sort that out. So that was something that really worked well for us from the beginning, and we saw it as a real benefit in going with Greenline ever since.”
As they reviewed the software systems available pre-legalization, TLC decided that a software system, like Greenline, that was purpose-built for Canadian cannabis retailers to stay compliant and grow their business, was the best choice. Scott was pleased with the capabilities Greenline had for POS, the back office, and the one-click compliance reporting but the clincher was in Greenline’s ability to share local references in Alberta, already using the Greenline POS system, who were completely satisfied with its functionality, ease of use, and effective training and support for the entire staff.
With thoughtful consideration of a very unique space construction, TLC placed 3 digital signage menu screens in their store, enabling them to have lower staffing levels in the evenings. They use BudSense for customizable online and print menus to promote products and educate customers and, when integrated directly with Greenline inventory management, ensures all digital, web, and print menus have up-to-date product information.
Seaton McLean, co-manager of The Local Cannabist, was pleased with how the BudSense team were really great to work with, especially in helping to set the categories for the custom Effect Wheel, to better merchandise the products through their menus. He liked the scrolling options and the display flexibility which can even provide labels to identify products as gluten-free or vegan. BudSense gives full control of the marketing menus and supports video content enabling TLC to add even stronger marketing value for their customers.
When it comes to business intelligence, Headset is a powerful resource, free for all Greenline customers, allowing for the ability to upgrade for even more detailed analytics. Headset is a powerful supplemental tool providing inventory analytics, customer purchasing patterns and more by showing market trends based on aggregated sales data.
Scott explained, “For me the Dashboard is key – especially with an ownership group, I need to see high level numbers, but I want to be able to see high-level numbers just at a glance, and those are obviously going to be sales related and some product information so we can pull up those numbers and see where we’re at – whether it’s tracking inventory, cost of inventory, dead stock – those high-level numbers help us make business decisions more accurately.”
With Greenline POS, store operators have the ability to see every action taken in their store, even when they’re not physically there. Greenline’s inventory audit feature enables managers to see everything that’s going on with their inventory counts, including the employee responsible, the time it was moved, and more. By connecting to a powerful data analytics program like Headset, TLC was able to acquire the high-level numbers they need on a daily basis.
Differentiation seems to be the buzz term these days when it comes to effective cannabis retail marketing. The TLC team maintains a strong focus on enhancing the customer experience and came up with an innovative and useful way to educate their community about the scientific side of THC and CBD with their cleverly designed Effect Wheel.
The distinction between medical and recreational cannabis retail has complexities surrounding the nature of how to market the vast majority of products and keep within the policies and legislation set out for cannabis retailers by the AGLC and governing bodies across Canada, where they are hard-pressed to talk about the effect of strains in such a way that it won’t come across as ‘medical advice’.
When describing the Effect Wheel, Scott says, “It’s essentially an Effect Wheel where we look at all cannabis based on the terpene profiles within the strains so it’s scientific, based on its genetic chemical makeup, to determine what the effect is and what you’re going to feel like.”
TLC used a combination of resources to produce their ‘Effect Wheel’. First, they enlisted the help of Cannametrics, a BC-based company providing batch-level cannabinoid and terpene profile information provided from licensed producers to the retailers. In unison with Cannametrics’ Producer Connect platform, TLC uses Leafly’s self-reporting tool to define and categorize the various effects produced with different strains and combinations of THC and CBD. With this detailed information they then categorize every piece of cannabis in the store. As a result of their collaborative efforts, the descriptive components of TLC’s Effect Wheel were approved by the AGLC, so they could use this tool effectively to educate their customer base with positive results.
Seaton McLean, co-manager at The Local Cannabist, reveals the results of the Effect Wheel for their customers, “The customers that find it most useful are the ones new to cannabis as it gives them a nice baseline of effect profile, and it’s especially useful for these folks, as cannabis can be very overwhelming when you don’t know what you’re looking for. It also then gives our staff an opportunity to explain how the colours are assigned, what terpenes are, and which ones the customer might be interested in. For the more experienced customers, who already have some idea of the effect or taste profile they are after, it allows them to browse through products with more ease.
Definitely my favourite thing is when a regular customer brings in someone that is new to the store and then explains how the Effect Wheel works for them. I love this because it says to me that the system is working and that it’s straightforward enough such that someone who uses it can explain it easily.
As acting Chair of the Alberta Cannabis Council (ACC), and as a cannabis retailer, Scott Treasure stressed the importance of becoming involved in the industry at the association level. Cannabis retail owners are accountable to learn and adhere to provincial and federal-level rules and regulations in order to avoid fines and/or losing their license altogether. Each province has their own regulatory body in terms of regulations and restrictions and all offer handbooks covering the specific details.
The Association of Cannabis Retailers, (ACCRES) in BC, and the Alberta Cannabis Council, (ACC) in Alberta, are provincial industry platforms with the Retail Council of Canada, (RCC) being Canada-wide, all advocate on behalf of cannabis professionals, raising regulatory concerns and putting them forward to governing bodies to effect positive changes.
The ACC works hard to advocate on behalf of all cannabis retailers in the province which also becomes instrumental in helping other provinces follow suit. British Columbia opened up delivery sales in July, 2021, and ACCRES, along with numerous advocates, worked hard towards making this initiative a reality. This proves another good reason to get involved with local cannabis associations who form the voice of cannabis retailers and need collective input to help make effective lobbying efforts with all levels of government.
The inroads these associations make are paramount to the continued success of cannabis retailers and to working within the restrictions and regulations set out by governing bodies. Associations are valuable resources and a great avenue for startups, long-standing retailers, and their staff to connect, get involved in industry events, and engage in educational opportunities.
In addition to having a powerful, compliant, and scalable POS and inventory management system like Greenline, one of TLC’s secret ingredients to a successful cannabis business is having the right staff in place. TLC is fortunate to have some very capable managers that the owners trust and can rely on. They harness the energy of their very knowledgeable staff of budtenders, who interact with and educate their customers every day, and are essential to their continued success.
Cannabis retailers need to devise a way to create differentiation, like TLC does, by carefully planning their store layout with consultants, educating their customer base via their highly effective ‘Effect Wheel’, by involving their staff in association events in their region, and by utilizing Greenline with its powerful, integrated partner software programs – bolstering their efficiency and ease of cannabis retail operation.
As the end of Covid is finally in sight, TLC plans to make use of the professional sound studio in the basement of their building where they can feature product reviews, let customers see the products, learn more about cannabis and see the innovative Effect Wheel in action.
As Scott puts it, “We’re selling happiness!”
The Local Cannabist is located at 14727 87 Ave Edmonton, Alberta | Shop – 780-HUG-WEED (484-9333)
TLC Effect Wheel Profiles: https://thelocalcannabist.com/tlc-effect-profiles/
Associations + Media
Business of Cannabis Canada: https://www.businessofcannabis.ca/
Canadian Cannabis Retailer magazine: https://cannabisretailer.ca/
Cannabis Prospect magazine: https://cannabisproonline.com/
MG Retailer magazine: https://mgretailer.com/
By Lisa Martyn | Greenline POS