When travelers pass through British Columbia‘s Prince George Airport this summer, Owen Ritz and Reed Horton envision them browsing and buying more than duty-free treats and trinkets.
American roommates-turned-business partners expect passengers to stop by Copilot, a cannabis store they are seeking approvals to open and believe it will be the world’s first airport marijuana store.
“Our goal from day one has been to create a differentiated retail experience that stands out from any store you might see downtown,” Ritz said.
Airport stores are nothing new to most retailers, but cannabis stores are rarely, if ever, seen in aviation hubs, so Copilot is a sign of the new territory that cannabis stores are in. marijuana shops are eager to enter.
In recent months, they have appeared in shopping malls, gas station plazas and next to breweries. Some, like BC marijuana retailer Seed and Stone, are even planning to open virtual dispensaries in the metaverse, an immersive, emerging digital world.
The impulse to enter these spaces comes more than three years after Canada Legalized recreational cannabis. Since then, pot shops have dotted many cities. Ontario it only had 1,115 stores last September, and they were grouped into both areas and Toronto‘s Queen Street that some are calling for legislation to dictate how close shops can be to each other.
Proximity is increasing competition between stores, and some observers predict closures are on the way, as entrepreneurs realize that owning a pot store isn’t a guarantee of making money, when you’re in a market. crowded.
“The entire industry completely misunderstood what was going to happen because they thought the only barrier is legalization and once we’re legal people will just buy,” said Joanne McNeish, a Ryerson University professor who specializes in marketing.
But breaking into airports and shopping malls could reduce some of the disappointment by helping businesses stand out from other brands with a store on every corner and catering to time-conscious customers.
“For a user, it could make it much more convenient,” McNeish said.
She believes these venues also help destigmatize cannabis for people who still see the substance as a stoner hobby or are intimidated by marijuana culture and terminology.
“If you’re walking through Sherway Gardens and you bump into him, maybe it’s a little less overwhelming to take a step,” said Justin Farbstein, Tokyo Smoke’s vice president of business development.
“It could give a more secure and accessible feeling.”
That location was part of why Canopy brought Tokyo Smoke cannabis stores to malls through a partnership with Edmonton Oilers owner Katz Group.
In the few months they’ve been open, Farbstein noted that shopping has a “slight skew” toward groceries and beverages, but hasn’t seen any particular demographic flock to the store more than others.
The company also has stores in a Scarborough gas station plaza and next door to Cool Beer Brewing Co. in Toronto.
In an effort to stand out, High Tide Inc. is also moving beyond the busy streets.
“On Queen Street, you have a group of stores and they all compete heavily with each other and there is no single advantage that one retailer has,” said CEO Raj Grover.
It has been targeting large commercial areas with anchor tenants like grocery stores, liquor stores, or Costco because Hide Tide can usually get cannabis exclusivity there, but it’s also making inroads into malls by opening Canna Cabana stores in Winnipeg‘s St. Vital Center and alberta‘s Prairie Mall.
Those locations will resemble Hide Tide’s 113 stores, but will take advantage of more kiosks and digital lockers to speed up browsing, ordering and pickup.
Their locations will also be chosen to avoid attracting children.
“Mall management is sometimes not too keen on locating a cannabis store where there is a food court or where families gather, so it can be a bit more challenging than locating them on the streets,” Grover said.
The trickiest part of opening malls, Farbstein said, is ensuring security cameras track every part of the journey cannabis deliveries make from loading dock to store shelf, a requirement for all pot shops. .
At the airport, there are even more challenges because travelers cannot board flights leaving Canada with cannabis. Copilot plans to ask customers where they’re going and remind them they can’t fly internationally with marijuana.
Several airlines do not believe that such measures are sufficient and are concerned that an airport shop encourages the use of cannabis before the flight and on board. air canada and WestJet have urged the Prince George’s City Council not to allow marijuana shops in airports.
Horton called his concerns “really valid” and said Copilot had “productive” discussions with the airlines to ensure they could work together.
“We want to improve passenger experiences, not make them worse,” he said.
But even Grover has second thoughts about marijuana shops at airports.
“I wouldn’t rush to airports,” he said.
“Cannabis in airports may still be pushing the limits because it’s so new and we want to be aware of how the public would react.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press