It’s not often that one gets to see a new form of retail emerge, but that’s what’s happening with, of all things, legal recreational cannabis. So far, this retail is taking a form that is big, feminine and even a bit luxurious.
The “big” comes from the apparent rise of the so-called cannabis “superstore,” the hotbed of which is reportedly — and understandably — Las Vegas, one of the world’s main adult playgrounds.
According to one recent report, a 13,000-square-foot legal retail dispensary in that city includes a “pizzeria and coffee house to attract customers who don’t partake in the now-legal herb.” Not only that, but “it offers an Apple Store-like atmosphere, with sleek modern decor, digital projections and motion-sensor displays, and friendly associates toting iPads.”
In fact, the report continued, “foot traffic has averaged 2,465 people per day since the beginning of 2019, but nearly a third of visitors don’t avail themselves of the bud, vape and edibles on sale.” The owners designed the store not so much as a destination for cannabis consumers but a general tourist destination — a model that could be imitated in other tourist hotspots as more states legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Women in the Industry
The feminine, meanwhile, stems from the fact that in these early days of state-by-state cannabis legalization, women entrepreneurs are helping to drive the growth of this new segment of retail. Women have become involved in all facets of the legal cannabis operations across the United States and Canada.
One of the most recent and reliable measures of women’s leadership in the legal cannabis industry, this one from Marijuana Business Daily, found that 27 percent of executive-level roles are held by women. That actually represented a decline from 2015, but is still higher than the 23 percent of executive roles held by women in U.S. businesses as a whole, the publication said.
But the growth of legal cannabis could lead to more changes in the makeup of industry leadership.
“This expansion, combined with rising social acceptance for marijuana use, has attracted scores of entrepreneurs and investors from more mainstream businesses,” the publication said. “Cannabis companies also are increasingly plucking executives from corporate America as they mature and the industry becomes more attractive. Consequently, the executive structure of businesses in the traditional economy — where males occupy more than 75 percent of senior roles — has begun to seep into the marijuana industry.”
The presence of women in leadership roles, along with efforts to win over more consumers of legal marijuana from groups of educated, relatively well-off women, has by most accounts changed the sales tone for legal weed. As Marijuana Business Daily put it, “Many cannabis businesses have made conscious efforts to appeal to women as both professionals and customers — moving away from the sexually suggestive forms of advertising and sexist hiring practices that previously characterized the industry.”
Not only that, but legal cannabis sales are going upscale — that’s the luxury part of this emerging retail industry. Evidence of that came earlier this year from Barneys New York.
The retailer said it is launching The High End, a luxury cannabis lifestyle and wellness concept shop. The High End will open in Barneys New York’s Beverly Hills flagship in March, with plans to expand to additional locations in the near future. Barneys has entered into an exclusive partnership with upscale cannabis company Beboe to introduce customers to the brand’s offerings, including its vaporizer pens and pastilles, as well as CBD products. The shop will also feature a selection of rare items made just for the store across home, beauty and jewelry lines. Select accessories will be made available on Barneys.com.
Most estimates say women make up 30 percent to 40 percent of the legal cannabis market. More retail efforts like Barneys are likely to emerge as part of the effort to make the industry and its products more attractive to women.
“They’re not necessarily looking to get inebriated and they don’t want to stink like a skunk because they just smoked weed,” says Linda Gilbert, managing director of consumer insights at BDS Analytics, which tracks the marijuana market, in another cannabis publication. “It’s more about taking the edge off their pain or anxiety.” That is also sparking (sorry, pun intended) efforts to produce low-dose and edible weed products that are marketed toward women consumers.
The spread of legal cannabis still has a major payments problem that stems from the fact that federal law considers the drug illegal, which in turn keeps banks, credit unions and payment card networks from taking part in this area. But as far the retail goes, the patterns are starting to take shape.