A push toward familiarity and comfort is in, while cannabis shops that resemble the Apple Store appear to be on the way out.
Taking a page from contemporary retailers, groceries and restaurants, cannabis companies are overhauling their store interiors to simplify and accelerate transactions using tablet ordering stations, digital signage and menus, and designated queues for online orders.
Some dispensary rebrands – including dozens of stores converging under the umbrella of Miami-based multistate operator Ayr Wellness – are intended to align retail outlets under one banner, look and feel.
Others, such as the Flower Shop in Arizona, sparked wholesale design changes to reflect product innovations, including the introduction of new house brands and stock-keeping units, or SKUs, for women.
‘More personal, less transactional’
If one element can summarize this recent swing of industry makeovers, a sense of “do no harm” related to the shopping and customer experience is near the top.
“We’re trying to make the experience a lot more personable and less transactional,” said Todd Grobstein, vice president of marketing at The Flower Shop, which is rebranding a dispensary in central Phoenix.
The company, which operates three retail outlets in the Phoenix area, is tying the rebrand to four recent brand launches: one in the beverage space, another targeting women’s wellness, and two house flower brands.
Part of the changeover included adding arcade claw machines at each store, which is right on brand in the desert metropolis known for hospitality and entertainment, including 24 hour marijuana sales.
Buyers of in-house “Shorties” products get a token to play the crane game, which offers a chance to grab store merchandise and smaller promotional items such as stickers and lighters.
The 2,250-square-foot marijuana retail space, which is set to conclude renovations in early June, will incorporate digital displays and tablet ordering stations, as well as brass fixtures, warm woods and forest green color palettes used in existing Flower Shop branding, locations and logos.
“The way that we’re designing our new locations is to make them shoppable, just like any other retail experience,” Grobstein, a former clothing brand executive, told MJBizDaily during a recent tour of the new space.
Deli style over luxury
Enhancing familiarity without disrupting the shopping experience led executives at Show-Me Organics, which has retail stores, brands and manufacturing under its banner, to rebrand one of the company’s two dispensaries in rural Missouri, near the Ozarks.
Its Carthage location, which will occupy a nearby property after renovations conclude in the fourth quarter, is housed in a former dairy barn and resembles a pharmacy and local hardware store.
The pharmacy-hardware aesthetic has helped define the brand in the small town, serving as a gathering post for a wide spectrum of consumers who discuss their buds of choice, according to Chief Marketing Officer Tony Billmeyer.
But the existing retail space is only 2,600 square feet, limiting business opportunities.
The rebranded location, which will total 4,800 square feet, also ushered in a name change to Blue Sage Cannabis Deli to better reflect the company’s retail strategy and design.
Deli-style cannabis retail is more informal, typically featuring products neatly lined up in rows in glass cases.
Budtenders recommend or serve up products after chatting with customers.
The design is a contrast to other rural dispensaries, which lean toward luxury and are often the poshest properties in small towns, according to Billmeyer.
“All of our competition are really trying to create comfortability through luxury,” he said.
In many ways, the Blue Sage rebrand is replicating what worked at the original location.
“I think we’ve actually cracked the comfortability thing by just being a normal shopping experience that everyone else who comes to our stores is used to,” Billmeyer added.
“This goal of making a comfortable shopping environment but doing it through familiarity rather than luxury. That’s what led us to really analyze what made us different, which was this this corner-store vibe, and we sell our flower deli style.”
The changeover even included buying the domain cannabisdeli.com, which leads visitors to the home page of Blue Sage Cannabis.
Ayr of consistency
Ayr Wellness is slated to announce a major rebranding effort in May that includes 60 medical marijuana dispensaries in Florida.
The plans include about 30 stores that Ayr acquired in 2021 as part of a $290 million, all-stock purchase of MMJ operator Liberty Health Sciences.
The rebrand effectively started more than a year ago, when Ayr sought to improve product quality, menus and customers’ in-store experience.
Ayr, which operates dispensaries in six states, wants its adult-use customers and medical patients to recognize its brand and feel comfortable walking into the company’s stores.
Ayr also wants locations to reflect the local market and cultural connections, whether that’s through the architecture of the space, local partnerships with artists or other community ties, CEO David Goubert told MJBizDaily.
“We want to bring the Ayr experience, the Ayr environment, but at the same time do it in a way that is very careful of not disappointing our customers by changing something that they are familiar with,” he said. “We have to figure out what’s best in each market.”
The science behind the strategy
Florida-based Jushi Holdings has been rebranding retail acquisitions under its Beyond Hello brand since 2019, when the multistate operator acquired two Pennsylvania stores under that name and 10 other retail licenses in the state in a $63 million deal with Franklin Bioscience.
The Beyond Hello name, like nearly every other feature of the company’s retail business, was workshopped and researched through focus groups, surveys, business intelligence and customer interactions.
The same research informed its color schemes, fonts, lighting and in-store experience.
The company leverages its 50,000-member loyalty program for instant feedback, sending shoppers inquiries via text or email about product development, color schemes, interior and exterior designs, as well as other shopping preferences.
“On the logo, we changed the colors to this trustworthy, upbeat blue and yellow and orange,” Chief Creative Officer Andreas Neumann said.
Orange is also the color of purchase icons on Jushi’s website, “like Amazon, because that’s the color people click most on,” Neumann said.
“All this science goes into that stuff. Applying it to the real world is key.”
Jushi has rebranded eight of 32 planned retail locations across California, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
But not every acquisition in Jushi’s roll-up strategy is rebranded.
The company has opted to keep the name and design of two NuLeaf outlets in Las Vegas. The bistro look of NuLeaf stores is popular among consumers, who can view buds in glass jars.
It also has good name recognition in the market, particularly among older shoppers.
Some 85% of products sold at the locations are NuLeaf house brands, as well.
“There’s no intention to change a winning formula,” Neumann said.
Chris Casacchia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.