COVID-19RegulationsRetailConsumers and companies embrace cannabis retail rush before expected mass shutdown

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a wave of weed stockpiling as store closures begin to sweep the country
Nick Laba Nick LabaMarch 17, 20209 min

While toilet paper is expected to continue rolling into supermarkets, Canadians who enjoy the comforts of cannabis have been rightfully buying in bulk over the past several days.

But as a mass shutdown looms — foreshadowed by Canopy Growth Corp.’s (TSE: WEED) closure of its 23 Tweed and Tokyo smoke locations by 5 p.m. Tuesday — any stoners subsisting on shake should consider stockpiling, especially in areas with limited online sales and retail.

Read more: COVID-19 could be a boon for cannabis retail

Starting last Thursday, as the novel coronavirus began moving within Canadian borders, the manager of Muse Cannabis’s Granville Street location said her store has seen a sharp uptick in sales.

Average buys per customer are up 30 per cent, Frida Hallgren said, and customers have been bagging their highest quantity 15 gram packages of dried flower at a higher rate than usual.

Consumers and companies embrace cannabis retail rush before expected mass shutdown - Frida Hallgren
In addition to suspending use of its smell jars, store manager Frida Hallgren says Muse Cannabis has also temporarily discontinued its packaging returns program. Photo by Nick Laba

“It hasn’t stopped yet. Even today, it’s just as busy as we usually are on Fridays,” she told Mugglehead over the phone on Monday.

Hallgren said she expects the increased foot traffic to continue for as long as her store stays open. She also hasn’t heard anything about a slowdown from B.C.’s provincial wholesaler, the Liquor Distribution Branch.

As per current regulations, BC Cannabis Stores hold a provincial monopoly over online sales and mail orders. Unlike provinces such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, British Columbians have no legal weed delivery options.

“It’s hard for us when we don’t have an option,” Hallgren said. “At times like this it would have been very useful to have a delivery system.”

High demand for cannabis deliveries and social distancing concerns have prompted Canada Post — which handles the majority of cannabis mail orders — to suspend direct deliveries to home addresses in favour of leaving packages at drop-boxes.

On Monday, Ontario Cannabis Store communications director Daffyd Roderick said the last four days had seen a marked increase in sales volume on OCS.ca and a high demand for its same or next day delivery option, where it’s available.

“Saturday saw almost 3,000 orders, an 80 per cent increase over an average Saturday,” he said in an email. “Sunday saw more than 4,000 orders, a 100 per cent increase from the previous week.”

Roderick said the OCS is working closely with its partners and is currently delivering and receiving as usual. OCS also said it doesn’t expect any inventory shortages at this time.

Consumers and companies embrace cannabis retail rush before expected mass shutdown - Muse Cannabis
Hallgren said she was shocked last week by the sharp divide between customers who were taking the pandemic seriously, and others who were not. Photo by Nick Laba

Some businesses are taking this time to streamline their online platforms and preparing to adjust their retail logistics, as most storefronts will likely shut down.

Up in the Yukon, where there’s yet to be a reported case of COVID-19, the territory’s first private cannabis retailer is anticipating the sweeping changes that have yet to come.

“Sales this weekend were actually quite poor — one of our lowest sales weekends ever, but today seems to be picking up,” Triple J’s Canna Space owner Jeremy Jones said Monday.

“We’ve been selling out of a lot of 15 grams,” he said. “People are buying more at once.”

Jones said his store is pushing its e-commerce platform for people practicing social distancing, but is somewhat limited because the Yukon’s cannabis retailer has a monopoly on mail orders. Triple J’s has switched its online retail platform from Leafly to Dutchie because some customers didn’t feel comfortable creating an account, which Leafly requires.

Cova Software — whose point-of-sale and inventory management platform has a significant footprint among Canadian cannabis retailers —  said Monday it has partnered with Dutchie to provide more in-store pickup and delivery options.

Because his store has a waiting area where customers check in with reception, Jones said he’s considering creating kiosks there where people can pick up their online orders, and closing the physical store.

“So, we’re working on a number of plans that would allow us to continue business while minimizing risk.”

Top image: “In the interests of public health and safety, we have temporarily restricted access to our smell jars, marketing materials and tablets on this table. We have also increased the frequency of sanitization of all high touch surfaces including door handles, payment terminals and cabinets.” From inside Muse Cannabis on Granville Street in Vancouver, B.C. on Monday, March 17. Photo by Nick Laba

 

nick@mugglehead.com

@nick_laba

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