Washington State’s cannabis industry is one of the most compelling consumer markets in the world. It’s also fiercely competitive. But even in a world of steep competition, Craft Cannabis Coalition believes that it is urgently important for the leaders of our industry to come together for collaboration, conversation, and networking. CCC created this kind of collaborative space during our February 3rd event: “Building Buyer Relationships: Winning in a Competitive Industry” where some of Washington State’s industry experts shared their best practices for forming strong buyer partnerships in the cannabis industry.
Sponsored by Sprague Israel Giles Insurance Company and moderated by CCC Board Chair Eric Gaston of the Evergreen Market, the event featured an esteemed panel including Shea Hynes of Lux Pot Shop, Ari Emadi of Green Theory and Higher Leaf, Liv Nagler of Pax, and Chuck McKeen of Heylo. In addition to the panel’s wisdom, other producers and retailers attending the event added to the conversation as well, including representatives of Zips Cannabis, Clearly Vape, Cinder, Craft Elixers, C4, and other local businesses.
The event focused on sharing best practices in buying and selling from both the perspective of the producers and processors as well as from the perspective of buyers and sellers. Here are some of the highlights:
“What promotes a strong buyer relationship from both sides?”
Communication, trust, and consistency.
- · “It’s important to me to make sure that my buyers know that if we say we’re going to do something, we’re going to get it done.” -Liv Nagler, Pax
- · “Be patiently persistent, and stay on top of all of your accounts. I’ve set the expectation with all of my accounts that I’m going to send my menu on this specific day . . . they know that they will get that email from me at the same time each week, which is really important in building consistency.” -Chuck McKeen, Heylo
- · “We try to be a really strong partner. We could have a good product, a good price, and beautiful packaging. We could have all that, but I also try to be a really strong partner in making sure that we can manage your multiple shops that we have to deliver to so that we can make it seamless.” -Jamie Hoffman, Craft Elixers
“For the retailers, what gets a new product on your shelf?”
Products who offer educational opportunities, marketing materials, and capacity for long-term partnership.
- “Providing educational materials and marketing materials can really help to engage customers. It is easier to sell products in our stores when there is an educational component. I look for brands who are willing to work with us on that piece.” -Cameron Gibbons, Cinder
- “I ask, is this product going to sell? Is this going to add value to our menu? And if it sells, if it’s profitable, and it becomes popular, can this vendor keep up with the volume and turn over product? Can we build a partnership and keep that rhythm going? I want to work with someone who can supply us on a consistent basis.” -Ari Emadi, Green Theory & Higher Leaf
“How much of a factor is price?”
It’s definitely a factor.
- “When looking at retailing, we have three things we’re looking at: our product, our price, and our placement. Price is important. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be low price. It just means that it has to be set for a reason. We’re happy to pay high price for high quality cannabis, but it needs to be priced accordingly.” -Shae Hynes, Lux Pot Shop
- “There’s no such thing as bad cannabis, just improperly priced cannabis. As long as it makes sense within the context of our store, our menu, and our market, you don’t need to be the cheapest or try to undercut. It just needs to make sense.” - Ari Emadi, Green Theory & Higher Leaf
“For the vendors and producer processors, what are some successful strategies in finding your way onto a retailer’s shelf?”
Leverage discounts, provide samples, and build relationships with the budtenders.
- “Do something unique. As a product designer and developer, if you’re selling that same stuff that everyone else is selling and getting frustrated, ask yourself, ‘What is unique about your product that would make a difference in a store?’ If the store is packed, and there’s no room, do a few months of discounts to get the traction going.” -Preston Hall, Clearly Vape
- “Budtender samples still work wonders, and retailers aren’t getting that many of them. They cost money, but they go a long way in building hype within the store.” -Shae Hynes, Lux Pot Shop
- “For Heylo, it’s about making every strain a unique experience, so one way we separate ourselves with Spotify playlists . . . We also try to communicate and educate not only the budtenders but the customers about the product. Just getting the order is the first step. There are so many other steps past that where we will work with you to make Heylo successful in your store.” -Chuck McKeen, Heylo
- “The budtenders are the gatekeepers for me, especially during COVID times when I’m not able to get in the store and have vendor days . . . Every interaction with a budtender is going to have a lasting effect, so even if that’s just a short visit where I’m dropping off a couple pieces of swag and saying hello, they will remember that next time they’re going to sell.” -Liv Nagler, Pax
“For the retailers, what are some of the reasons that you have dropped a vendor?”
Compliance Issues, lack of professionalism.
- “The easiest decision to drop a vendor is when there are blatant compliance issues, specifically inventory-related compliance issues, like labeling and barcodes.” -Ari Emadi, Green Theory & Higher Leaf
- “Professionalism is key. One of the main areas that unprofessional behavior manifests is when vendors come in, so eager to get in the store and sell their product that they talk about pricing on the sales floor in front of customers.” -Shae Hynes, Lux Pot Shop
“What changes would you like to see CCC advocate for on the regulatory landscape to make things better, not just for our industry but for your companies in particular?”
- Branded Merchandise
- Increasing vendor sample size
- Preselling product
CCC thanks all members who participated in the conversation and looks forward to facilitating future discussions.
Know someone in the cannabis industry who may be interested in these types of events? Invite them to join CCC!