Recreational marijuana retailers throughout several markets in the U.S. saw a dramatic spike in sales in recent days, according to new data, an unambiguous sign that the coronavirus pandemic is prompting consumers to stock up on products.
The run on cannabis stores may come from the fear that marijuana shops will be closed indefinitely, similar to measures taken in several states to shutter bars and restaurants.
According to point-of-sale data provided by Seattle-based Headset, daily sales in California spiked 159% on Monday over same-day sales in 2019. Colorado and Washington state also reported significant spikes, as shown in the chart above.
Year-over-year growth continues
Sales in 2020 have outpaced those of 2019 across all recreational marijuana markets. This is a fundamental characteristic of a growing industry.
But the degree to which sales over the previous weekend – and also on Monday – outperformed sales during the same time period in 2019 fell well outside the norm.
On average, year-over-year adult-use sales on Fridays between Jan. 10 and March 6 were up 70% in California, 9% in Colorado and 8% in Washington state.
The average year-over-year increase for adult-use sales on Mondays between Jan. 6 and March 9 was 71% in California, 10% in Colorado and 15% in Washington state – meaning the percent increases seen in each market on Monday, March 16, 2020, were several standard deviations beyond the norm.
In each market, the sales figures posted on Monday looked much more like a typical Friday, which is usually the biggest sales day of the week for retail cannabis stores.
Responding to uncertainty
Marijuana store owners are taking daily assessments of inventory as they decide whether to increase orders to match the uptick in demand or to hold off out of concern that they may have to close their stores by law.
Kimberly Cargile, CEO of A Therapeutic Alternative retail store in Sacramento, California, said sales have surged since Friday. And many customers are ordering online.
Cargile appealed to the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control to allow her company to offer emergency curbside pickup and received approval for 30 days.
“We are thinking about stocking up on inventory, but we are trying to take it day by day,” Cargile said, noting that the spike in customer traffic eased somewhat on Tuesday.
Cargile also plans to apply for a delivery license, so if the state shuts down all retail stores, her company can still make sales.
In Colorado, retailers have seen a boost in sales, enough to cause one store owner to close out of fear of spreading the coronavirus.
Pepe Breton, co-owner and CEO of Denver-based retail company Euflora, said from Thursday to Sunday his sales were up 25% compared to this time in 2019.
One store sold about $50,000 worth of cannabis in one day, he said.
Breton checked with his infused-products suppliers, and so far, “the vendors said business was running as usual.”
Tim Cullen, CEO of Denver-based cannabis retailer Colorado Harvest Company, sent out email blasts, text messages and posted on the firm’s website encouraging customers to order online.
Only 10 customers are allowed in the store at one time, so that his company can maintain the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for social distancing. Customers using the online ordering system help with this strategy.
Colorado has experienced mild weather recently, so “if they’re going to wait in line they would rather stand outside at 6 feet apart,” Cullen said.
He’s not a big proponent of an emergency delivery provision for cannabis companies.
“We want to see delivery rolled out with a thoughtful approach,” he said, not just have people saying, “Oh, my god, it’s coronavirus,” and driving around with cannabis.
In Washington state, Jeremy Kaufman, owner of The Bakeréé, a cannabis retail company in Seattle, said his sales were up 30% on average since about two weeks ago.
For now, his inventory is holding up. He said he was prepared because in moments of crisis people always stock up on food, water, ammunition and marijuana.
“You always see a spike in consumption,” Kaufman said.
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