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Benchmarks: Best-in-Class Business Behaviors

Display cases and shelves are more than just visual branding.

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THE RETAIL CANNABIS market is smoldering hot and it’s only going to get hotter (and smokier), as more countries and U.S. states move toward legalizing recreational weed. In the U.S., retail sales of adult-use cannabis are expected to grow 120 percent from $16.5 billion in 2021 to $35 billion in just five years, according to the 2022 MJBiz Factbook.

But as more retail markets open, competition will only get more intense—and market saturation becomes a concern. “Dispensary operators will
likely face competition from other new cannabis retailers as everyone vies for the same shares of the emerging market,” notes designer Jano Badovinac of SevenPoint Interiors, a leading cannabis retail design firm located in Woodbridge, ON, Canada. Successful retailers must stand apart, adapt to their clientele, and create an atmosphere that not only draws in new customers but keeps them loyally returning. A big part of that atmosphere is display. “With a well-thought-out design, a shop can appeal to buyers to not only increase sales but also increase the chance for return customers,” says the team at Henrico, VA -based retail design firm Showbest.

How you display cannabis should marry form with the function your store prioritizes—which could be security, best use-of-space, education or a combo of several needs. Here are a few examples of some dispensaries that have taken display cases to the next level.

Green Grocer

Not everyone is into the “lux” or super-designed looks of some dispensaries. Superette of Toronto has run in the opposite direction, designing each of their locations to look like a business that might have existed on the property before it became a cannabis store. Think a bodega or a deli. With matching display cases that run the gamut from beverage fridges to meat counters, Superette is itself a display case of whimsy. “The reason we created Superette is to make the buying experience fun,” says co-founder Mimi Lam. “We thought that there was such a disconnect between the retail experience and the feeling that customers are ultimately pursuing in an adult-use market.”

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Found Highway

Display-wise, when a cannabis store describes itself as having “a cinematic David Lynchian aesthetic,” it better live up to the hype. Alchemy of Toronto does just that with its undulating walls and back-lit shelves displaying product that seems to ripple around the room like an art installation. Toronto Life even went further, labelling the Paolo Ferrari-designed dispensary as “like the inside of a ‘Twin Peaks’ dream sequence”.

Qween of Hearts

Sometimes niche is the way to go, especially when the targeted demo has the money and the clout to make cannabis shopping a destination date. Enter Green Qween, a dispensary aimed at the LGTBQ+ tokers of Los Angeles, CA. Green Qween’s secret is design and display that “doesn’t feel like a dispensary,” says owner Andrés Rigal of the store design by SevenPoint Interiors. The New York Times concurs, saying the former bank, now stylishly fitted in curves and angles with a disco ball centerpiece, “looks like a museum display case.”

Cage Match

The display cases at the Tempe, AZ branch of Salubrious Wellness are inviting and easy-to-understand. But there’s another factor informing their design—security. Store designer Basile of San Diego, CA ensured that retail stock doesn’t go anywhere at night. Locking display cages descend mechanically into the floor when the store is closed. And while Salubrious might have the bones of a vault, it’s still remarkably hands- and nose-friendly with its displays. “Jane Diffusers” allow customers to easily smell and see products without having to worry that “Jane” might suddenly disappear into someone’s pocket.

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More with Less

Los Angeles, CA-based dispensary Wyllow is a tiny, neon-lit world of weed. With just 350 sq. ft. of retail space, every inch is needed. Consequently, display must maximize sales without cramping the style and feel of a room that looks like a postmodern cathedral in miniature. Softly lit wall cases show only a curated selection of the shop’s full stock. Customers can choose from a much larger selection displayed on wall screens. Budtenders bring out requested product on trays to banquettes set into the corners of the room. In its center, outsized bell jars display lava rocks doused in terpenes, allowing a product’s scent to take center stage, even if the product itself is still safely in another room.

Selling Ideas

A mix of table cases and shelves at Pure Options cannabis provisioning centers in Michigan could be described as showcases of ideas, never mind that they sell top quality cannabis as well. “With such a strong brand presence, [they] wanted the visual identity to carry through the entire space,” Badovinac says. It certainly does at that—and with six locations up and running, it’s easy to see why Pure Options is one of the top dispensaries in its market.

Thaddeus Flint is the Managing Editor of Global Cannabis Times. He previously worked as a journalist, investigator, and luxury boutique owner. Having lived in NYC, France and Switzerland, he now resides in an off-grid A-frame on a mountain in upstate New York.

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