The legalization of cannabis for distribution and consumption has created a variety of opportunities, both for newly licensed retailers and for curious consumers interested in this government-sanctioned product. As a result, savvy cannabis retail outlets are focusing their customer service strategies on education and information designed to dispel myths about this often-misunderstood plant.
“This is a brand new market that has opened up, and there are a lot of people coming through our doors who really haven’t experimented or ventured into the cannabis space,” explained Stew Garner, President of Star Buds Cannabis Co. in Bradford. “People are realizing it’s a natural product and they’re coming in wanting to learn more about it. Our staff is focused on education about the various product types and methods of consumption and are more than happy to assist inexperienced customers.”
One investor in Star Buds is Tony Parisi, a Bradford local. “I’m thrilled to be a part of Star Buds. Being raised and having strong family ties to the town, I feel that the store is adding a lot to the growing community and changing the stigma around cannabis for the better.”
Clearing up the confusion and misinformation that continues to linger about cannabis is critical to the success of neighbourhood dispensaries like Star Buds, especially given the number of products now available on the market. At his store, for example, Garner and his staff offer a product selection that includes flower strains, pre-rolls, vape products, edibles, beverages, extracts, topicals, tinctures and related accessories.
“We strive to ensure that customers leave our store with the knowledge needed to guide their future purchases."
“We’re more focused on personalized service than a typical cannabis store,” said Garner. “We strive to ensure that customers leave our store with the knowledge needed to guide their future purchases. Our store experience is really hands-on. Our staff greet you when you walk through the door, engaging you in conversation about what you’re looking for and how experienced you are with the product. The new crowd is often surprised at the array of products available. We have also built a more cozy atmosphere compared to the competition and we like to keep it that way.”
Star Buds also caters to experienced cannabis users. With the huge volumes of information available on the Internet related to legal cannabis in Canada, consumers are often highly educated about the various strains and product applications available. That said, many customers visiting Star Buds ask very specific questions about product characteristics such as terpene profiles, potency and strain origins according to Store Manager Jill Beresford.
“I get many different questions from both new and experienced consumers who are just coming into a legal market and previously purchased through the grey market,” said Beresford. “Typically, I’m looking at a mix between what’s your highest THC and what can I do with CBD products, but we also try to educate further than that.”
Ontario’s retail cannabis industry is still in its infancy, which means most retailers are still trying to find the best way to manoeuvre their way through the complicated regulatory guidelines related to marketing various cannabis products and the manufacturers licensed to produce them. With no real established market leaders or universally-known brands to choose from, consumers are appreciative of the information being provided by the well-trained staff at Star Buds to help them make their purchases.
“It’s more of a product-centric market than a brand-centric market right now,” explained Beresford. “All of the product we sell is produced in Canada. Even in my area, we’ve got Aurora Cannabis Inc. (MedReleaf) growing right around the corner, so I do get a lot of questions about products they produce locally in Bradford such as San Raf (San Rafael ’71).”
As for the most popular products being purchased, new cannabis consumers tend to forego smoking in favour of other methods of consumption such as vaping.
“Right now it’s probably edibles. People are just so excited about trying something new. Even people who still display quite a bit of restraint when it comes to cannabis, they’re willing to try edibles because the Health Canada cap (on potency) makes it more approachable to everyone which helps avoid bad experiences.”
You can find Starbuds online at www.starbuds.co/bradford. Or visit them in Bradford at 22 Barrie Street.