Cannabis stores smokin’ in the Glebe

The bright exterior of Superette Cannabis on Bank at Fifth Avenue is the second Ottawa location for the cannabis

By Piper McWilliams

Does the Glebe have too many cannabis retailers? The cannabis retail sector has experienced a boom across Ottawa in recent years. The influx of new dispensaries along with the COVID-19 pandemic have challenged cannabis retailers to get creative and to create a unique shopping experience for their customers to set them apart from other cannabis stores in the city.

For Superette Cannabis at the corner of Fifth and Bank, they have reimagined cannabis shopping. Superette’s newly opened store in the Glebe is the second Ottawa location for the brand and the fourth overall, with two in Toronto. Superette’s philosophy is to make cannabis shopping fun. CEO and co-founder of Superette Mimi Lam said their emphasis at their retail store is to make sure that the shopping experience matched what people are trying to achieve when they consume cannabis.

The overly regulated, sterile traditional cannabis shopping experience didn’t make sense for Superette’s CEO. “We wanted to be extremely bold in our approach and push the creative boundaries of what we could do,” explained Lam. At Superette Cannabis, the store’s bright colours and fun designs act as a contrast to the more sterile interiors seen in other cannabis retailers.

Another cannabis outlet that opened on Bank Street in April, Plateau Cannabis, has also had to get creative with its business model. The focus of its new location was to be minimalistic and consumer driven. Plateau Cannabis’s main philosophy is the consumer experience.

Samuel Hunt, who is the operations manager for Plateau, said they work with small craft producers to be the go-to place for craft cannabis. The menus at Plateau are available on tablets, with a toned-down selection of about 10 to 15 products. “Consumers can look at the products that speak to them rather than be overwhelmed by all of the different products,” said Hunt.

“There is no advertising or marketing in any of our stores,” explained Hunt. Their goal is to learn more about their customers and to get them the best product possible.

Other cannabis stores in the Glebe include High Ties and The Good Company, soon to be followed by The Big Bamboo Cannabis Company on Renfrew at Bronson.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed every aspect of our lives including the way we shop and consume different products. Cannabis retailers have had to shift their approach to the way they operate their stores. Since the beginning of the pandemic the province of Ontario has seen a surge in cannabis sales. Ontario saw a record of $186 million in cannabis sales between April and May 2020 according to Statistics Canada. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health conducted a study during the first wave of the pandemic and found that 52 per cent of cannabis users had increased their cannabis consumption during the first wave and set of lockdown restrictions.

“COVID-19 has been a challenge for everyone,” said Lam. The first step was ensuring that they could continue to operate their stores through pandemic restrictions. Prior to the pandemic, curbside pickup and delivery were not allowed for cannabis retailers. “We had to push on the regulatory side in order to maintain consistency of business during this time,” added Lam. “With restrictions over the past 12 months, we have seen things open and close, so it has been a learning process for not only Superette Cannabis but also for other retailers.”

Hunt said operating during the pandemic has been difficult especially with the opening of their Glebe location. For Plateau, focused on bringing in craft cannabis, because of the pandemic they have had to bring in different products that they may not have sold prior to COVID-19. “Speaking to your customer base without actually speaking to them was a very big challenge,” said Hunt. They had to invest more time and money in creating an online presence and trying to connect with customers virtually.

Navigating pandemic restrictions in the cannabis industry has unquestionably been challenging. However it has forced dispensaries to get creative and rethink how to connect with their customers. It appears that there is an abundant market for cannabis in the Glebe, as the community continues to grow and diversify, even with pandemic restrictions.

Piper McWilliams is a fourth-year journalism and legal studies student at Carleton University. She is passionate about protecting our natural environment and Indigenous rights law alongside political journalism.

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