Man oh man what a year it’s been. We believe this industry attracts people who like a challenge, who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves to get the job done and are overall extremely passionate; about people, about this great plant and breaking down the stigmas associated with it’s consumption.
We thought we’d check in with a few of our very own to get their reflection on the past two years of legalization and get their thoughts on a few burning questions (see what I did there)?
Q: Okay guys, it’s been a tough two years. Let’s toot our own horn for a second, what are some of the biggest achievements your team/we have accomplished together?
A: I believe one of our greatest accomplishments is managing through the ever-changing rules and regulations and today have managed to have ten fully licensed Cannabis stores with five more coming in the next three months,” says James Jesty, President of FSHC. Robin Ellins, Founder of Friendly Stranger Cannabis Culture shop believes “capturing the essence of the FS brand and experience during rollout, was probably one of the biggest hurdles,” and Kathryn Long, VP of Marketing and Communications at FSHC, “couldn’t agree more! I’ve always thought of myself as someone who accepts change easily, but the intense restrictions surrounding cannabis and ever-changing COVID landscape has really kept us on our toes. Maintaining the brand essence as well as a willingness to be nimble/pivot in this industry is a must for any retailer/especially in this category.” Roberta Sampson, our VP of People and Culture, believes “it was our teams in store, who heroically tackled every challenge with a dedicated team, who live and breath the brand.
Ahhh. Group hugs *ahem* , we mean group elbow bumps.
Q: Alright, how do you think the industry is handling COVID, what would you like to see change/keep doing?
A: Everyone is aligned over here, we’re all pretty proud of how our industry handled COVID. From the early stages of being shut down to the industry really rallying together for the greater good. James believes “we were able to really affect some change while being able to stay open and offer Curbside pick-up and Delivery.” Robin Ellins is “especially proud of how many vendor partners were able to rise to the challenge quickly to provide our stores with protective gear for both staff and consumers while maintaining safe operations for all.” As a marketer, Kathryn reflected on the positive impact COVID has had on the overall guest experience and communication platforms. “It’s incredible to see how we’ve all changed over these last seven months. Many of us use to do our research online before going to a brick and mortar store for final purchase but we can’t do that anymore. As retailers we’ve been forced to offer extended digital and guest service support support, like website chats, ramped up guest messaging and same day delivery to remain competitive, and non-printed virtual support in store during the shopping experience, like QR code menus and the like. It’s all a part of offering the absolute best guest experience.” And Roberta wan ts to give a “big kudos to the R etail Council of Canada for the outstanding support to retailers across Canada during the last 7 months. The RCC provided discussion forums, d aily updates, and an abundance of relevant resources for applicable knowledge transfer.” We would love to see this joint effort continue as we see more stores opening and the industry gaining strength in the Ontario and Canadian market.
Q: This industry is still so new, in your opinion, what are the largest challenges we still face today?
A: James sees “the biggest challenge to the industry still being the stigma that continues and the fact that governments and policy makers still don’t seem to see us as a legitimate industry. We hope that as we continue to grow and we demonstrate our commitment to operating a responsible business that some of the restrictions on advertising and promotion can start to loosen up and we will be able to tell our story. Second, the gouvernment involvement as a main competitor in the market is a significant risk. When we only have one supplier and they can set the pricing and product selection it makes it very difficult to compete as we see more stores opening.” Robin also believes “since there continues to be a significant portion of the cannabis community that doesn’t support the legal market, the illicit market will continue to thrive and is allowed to continue unchecked. Our guests have a hard time understanding why we have so many rules and regulations and extreme packaging requirements. It leaves us with many hurdles to overcome to be able to truly flourish.”
Head nods from the crowd all around. And finally…
Q: It’s nearing the Holiday season and hopefully a better New Year. What are your hopes for this industry?
A: “My biggest hope for the industry is that we see further success and continue to work towards growing the legal market,” says James. Robin hopes for an industry that is less regulated “closer to how the Indigenous reserves are currently operating” (guests allowed to see and smell product through open display jars), allowing them to weigh it in front of the guest and then affix the necessary warning and caution information along with “a timelier delivery of product to shelves.” Kathryn hopes legislation will be relaxed not only in terms of branding restrictions but also the communication channels in which we’re allowed to operate. “It’s difficult to walk through Union Station or see outdoor billboards, television, radio or transit advertising shouting about the latest and greatest alcohol brand for the entire world to see, yet because we aren’t given the same rights, this is still prohibited for recreational cannabis companies. My other hope is that we as an industry continue to help and support those groups working to undo the harm criminalization of cannabis possession and it’s enforcement, disproportionately targeted on BIPOC and vulnerable members of society. Shout out to Cannabis Amnesty.”
There. We said it. Happy 10.17 everyone.
Written by: Friendly Stranger Holdings Corp.