If you walk into a medical marijuana dispensary or adult-use cannabis retail store to do some shopping, you will find a wide range of product displays and store layouts—some of them better than others. Unless it’s a chain of stores, everyone is operating independently of one another when it comes to how these stores merchandise their products to customers and market them. Some are orderly, while others are chaotic.
In today’s increasingly competitive cannabis industry, it behooves all cannabis business owners to step up their game and invest in sound visual marketing practices. The store interior should be bright, airy, and clean rather than dark, cluttered, and dingy. Unfortunately, dark, cluttered, and dingy is not uncommon among today’s dispensaries, and this does nothing to attract new customers and retain return-visit patrons—and customers have plenty of choices when it comes to buying high-quality cannabis these days. If a store is dark and cluttered, and the floor needs sweeping, customers may well wonder if the other business practices are as lax as the unorganized state of the store interior. None of these things translate to pride of ownership and superior quality.
With a thoughtfully organized dispensary interior, customers shouldn’t have to ask if a given item is in stock—it should be immediately apparent if the store has it. Carefully organized displays not only keep customer questions to a minimum, they also make the budtenders’ jobs easier, because each customer will require less one-on-one attention.
A high percentage of people visit dispensaries to purchase flower. In fact, for many stores flower is the highest-selling product category. Some establishments have cannabis strains proudly displayed on shelves behind a single service counter. Usually, the various strains are contained in large mason jars bearing labels that identify the contents. Upon inquiring about a strain in stock, a budtender will remove it from the shelf and present it to the customer for examination and a sniff so they can evaluate the aroma and terpene quality. If the customer decides to purchase some of the product, a drawer or compartment below the counter usually contains the weight increment the customer desires.
In other stores, the customer must inquire about what cannabis strains are in stock. Then, the budtender reaches below the counter and presents a box of strains crowded together in containers with only the tops of the lids visible, with the various strain names printed on them for the customer to review. Usually, there will be a mishmash of various indica, sativa, and hybrid strains squeezed tightly against each other in rows at the bottom of the box. With this type of basic and primitive product display, if the customer is lucky, the store may even have a color-coding system that makes it easier to identify sativa, indica, or hybrid. With a “box display” system like this, upon request, the customer can usually smell the various strains before making a decision.
And by all means, turn up the lights! Keep the flower in a very well-lit area that’s illuminated if not with natural light then with bright overhead light. Take pride in your flower, and display it so customers can appreciate the stocky coating of trichomes on them, as well as other pleasing colors. Beautifully colored strains like Granddaddy Purple and Purple Urkle should be seen and appreciated. If you take pride in the flower you sell, show it off in good light. By doing so, it will practically sell itself after discerning customers evaluate it.
Separating Strains by Quality
As well as color coding to identify sativa, indica, or hybrid, a color-coding system can also work to identify quality, even with the box display system. Although boxes have met the needs of some dispensaries, a clean, clear display case at the front counter presents a customer-friendly, visually appealing, and attractive flower display.
Stores with more advanced product displays use a variety of ways to separate strains according to quality, and some of them are quite good. There are a variety of ways the separate strains by quality other than color, whether it’s an A-grade. B-grade, C-grade; Platinum, Gold, and Bronze; or a Top Shelf, Medium, Shelf, and Lower Shelf tiered system. Often, the display system is customer-friendly and makes it easy for a shopper to figure out without any need for a budtender to explain it each time a new customer enters the store. In a glass display case, three separate shelves with the top shelf being the highest quality, works extremely well. This is how liquor stores usually display their various categories of alcohol by quality and price, since those two things usually go hand in hand.
Another interesting display practice that’s visually appealing and highly functional, allowing multiple customers to peruse strains simultaneously, is a table-display arrangement. Separate tables, each identified as “Premiere Grade,” “Top Grade,” or “Discount Grade” makes it immediately apparent what price point and quality the customer is viewing. Having the various strains displayed in sealed and secured jars with a screened top with a slide panel will allow several customers to browse and evaluate the various strains, while budtenders assist a few at a time. Like a liquor store patron who wants to take some time deciding which beer to buy, many cannabis customers like to take their time and not feel rushed in the presence of a budtender who has other customers to help. This is why the table system can work very well for cannabis shoppers. With various ceramic or glass flower containers clamped or otherwise secured to the tabletops at separate stations with only a slide to allow sniffing for quality evaluation, customers do not feel rushed and much of the labor is taken out of the assisting customers with their purchases. A budtender is always present to answer any questions.
Concentrates are usually not as labor-intensive to sell as flower. Color is often an indication of quality when it comes to shatter, wax, crumble, and other concentrates, so a transparent small container is usually all that’s needed for customers to shop. The request to sniff concentrates will not be nearly as great as it is for flower. An organized display area, however, is very important to make the shopping experience as easy as possible for customers. To minimize the risk of theft, a glass display case or shelf display under a counter usually works very well.
Categorize all of the various forms of concentrates together, not only by variety (oil shatter, wax, crumble, taffy, hash, moonrocks), but by whether it’s created with indica, sativa, or hybrid strains. Since strain-specific concentrates are becoming increasingly popular, keep strain-specific concentrate products separate and easy to find as well.
With just a little bit of organization and planning, a concentrates display can be highly functional and customer-friendly. The quicker a customer can visually examine the products and determine if they’re what he or she wants, the less work will be necessary for the budtenders.
Every cannabis lover seems to appreciates a nice piece of glass. Consuming cannabis through glass ensures a clean and pleasing smoking experience. Since they are so small, glass pipes should remain under glass counter displays to allow for close visual examination from customers, while minimizing the risk of theft.
Assort glass by size in areas that allow good visual evaluation on the part of customers. Large bongs, dab rigs, and bubblers should be in areas with good visibility for customers to evaluate them. Since bongs can be quite large, a shelf behind the counter area where the smaller glass is kept provides a good location to display them—and this is a much better area for glass bongs than the jars of flower that often occupy this space.
Dispensaries vary when it comes to the products they offer. Some sell edibles, but others do not. Organize any other products by category in a highly organized manner. Any time spent creating order to your store interior and making it visually appealing to customers is time well spent.
Effective interior design, visual merchandising, and strategic product displays is the weak link in many dispensaries that would definitely improve their bottom line after some carefully planned updates and improvements. Cannabis is big business these days, and the astute business owner will remain competitive and profitable by stocking high-quality products and displaying them well.