What Makes A Good Dispensary?
Living in Los Angeles I see dispensaries everywhere and deciding which one to visit can be difficult. A great first time patient deal helps bring me in, but after that there is no guarantee that I will be returning. To lock me in as a long-term customer, there are four main factors that I look for in a dispensary: welcoming environment, knowledgeable budtenders, a wide range of products, and an updated menu.
Have you ever checked out a dispensary, gotten the product you wanted, talked to the nice staff, but something still felt off? There are many different types of dispensaries but one type that I tend to avoid (regardless of patient deals) are the ones that make you feel sketchy or like you did something wrong. Many people have experienced walking into poorly lit, windowless rooms which are less than inviting.
With legalization in California just around the corner, pot stores should consider themselves retail locations like any other store, except they sell cannabis products. Can you imagine walking into a Target or CVS feeling like you were doing something wrong buying your toilet paper?
When the 21+ law is put in place, there will be an influx of individuals who want to check out a dispensary or try cannabis for the first time. This will bring in many different demographics, not just a stereotypical stoner who wants to buy their weed. So yes, if you have a patient base that has been returning for years, then maybe they do not mind the strange environment of the store, but someone who is new to cannabis is less likely to try out a place that looks unkempt rather than a well designed retail space.
How does a dispensary fix this? Make the customer feel like they are walking into any other store, except this store happens to sell cannabis products.
Sometimes having a less inviting exterior is unavoidable, but what you can do is make the interior more inviting. If there is a waiting room, make it look clean and presentable - maybe even include some reference or reading material for your customers. Make the sales floor bright and inviting. Do the budtenders welcome the patients that walk onto the sales floor? Are they asking if they need help or what they are looking for in particular? Nicely display your products, think about where the products should be located. What about the flow of the store? Do you have multiple cash registers or is there only one and everyone must stand in line? Do your budtenders ask if the customers need help or are they stoned behind the counter waiting for the customer to approach them?
I heard a funny story the other day. A friend of mine went into a dispensary to purchase a vape cartridge. When looking at the test results there was the abbreviation CBN and a percentage. My friend asked the budtender what CBN meant and the budtender gave a shrug and said "I don't know. Combination?". No, that is not what CBN means. CBN stands for Cannabinol, which is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. If this was me, I would have never returned to this dispensary. It is not the job of the consumer to be an expert on the products, but itis the responsibility of the budtender to know what they are selling and what is found in the product they are selling. So, who does this fall on? I'd say the store owner for not providing the proper education and training needed.
How do we remedy this you may ask? Education, education, education! At the very least, the budtenders should know the general science behind cannabis and how different cannabinoids affect your body, but they should also know details about the products on the sales floor. Is your store carrying a new product? Let your budtenders try the product so they can speak from experience. Ask the manufacturer for any educational material on their product so the budtenders can properly describe and sell the product.
Understanding the products they are selling will not only create a better experience for the consumer, it'll also increase your sales. If a budtender is able to explain why one vape cartridge is specific for what I am looking for, I am more likely to purchase it, even if it is slightly more expensive than the counterpart. Budtenders should be able to interpret the product test results and be able to properly inform the consumer what the results mean and what potential effect the product will have. Working with a company that provides education to your staff can be invaluable.
You never want someone to come in and mention the desired effect they are looking for and the only response a budtender has is to point out a strain and say "this is dank". The budtender should be educated enough to point the consumer in the proper direction and be able to explain why the specific product may be the best option for what they are looking for.
Wide range of products
Some dispensaries are great about having a wide range of products and others are not so much. I've been to a few that either carry mostly flower, or mostly concentrates. The dispensary down the street from my house carries primarily concentrates so I find myself driving to a different location to go to a store with a bigger range of products. I would frequent my local dispensary if they carried a better variety of products. It is important to remember that not all people buying cannabis products want to get high or smoke; there are benefits of different cannabinoids or other administration methods. If your store does not carry any topicals or transdermal patches specific for pain relief, you are missing out on bringing in customers who are looking for that type of effect. Maybe your dispensary does carry transdermal patches, but the ratio of THC:CBD is higher than what you are looking for - which is why different ratios of the same product are also important. Another thing to think about is dietary restrictions. A consumer might come into the store looking for an edible but they are vegan and gluten free. Do you have an edible that they could consume? Stocking the right variety of products is incredibly important especially with the variation of individuals looking to use or try cannabis.
Another reason to have a wide range of products is to help with your sales. You might have a customer coming into the store for flower but they notice you carry THC mints, which they have never seen before. The consumer may have entered the shop not even knowing that products like mints, breath strips, gel caps, etc. even exist. Shopping at a dispensary can be quite an experience, and you and your staff can help shape that experience by exposing the customer to new and different products they may want to try.
Some of my favorite types of products to try are what I call "fast grabs" located at the counter. I usually explore the sales floor and pick out everything that I want, but if I happen to see a crazy joint covered in oil and kief located at the counter, I often find myself grabbing it and throwing it in with my purchases. Keep small items at the counter to make sure no one is stealing the small products but also to entice the customers to try something new.
Many dispensaries put their menus up on weedmaps or other platforms for customers to review prior to going into the store. There is nothing worse than looking for a specific product, finding a store that has the product on the menu, arriving to the dispensary and then being told that the item is out of stock and the menu has not been updated. I cannot stress this enough,make sure the menu reflects what is in the store! If you run out of stock of a certain strain, remove the strain from the menu. It shows that your staff is on top of it but also shows that you are a reliable shop. Prices and products on the menu should always reflect what is in the store at any second.
Many of the mistakes made on menus is due to a poor method of keeping track of inventory. Look into a point of sales program to help with inventory. Assign a manager or budtender to be in charge of checking inventory and updating the online menu in real time.
About the Author
Mikayla Kemp is director of education at Pushr, a cannabis distributor located in southern California. Prior to joining Pushr, she worked for MedMen where she trained all of the budtenders across their chain of retail stores. A biologist by trade, Mikayla is passionate about cannabis, and she excels at imparting in-depth product knowledge and cannabis science to budtenders at all of Pushr's retail accounts.
Pushr is a cannabis distribution company located in southern California. The company is on a mission to push the cannabis industry forward through innovative technology, in-depth training and education, efficient supply chain management, and reliable service.