By Colette Thomas
As we are heading into the eighth month of recreational marijuana sales in Washington, I am quite surprised at who the average customer is. I recently interviewed Doug West, who is the manager at the recreational store Mr. Bill’s of Buckley, to gather data on this subject. When asked the average age of his customers, West said that 50% of his clientele are between the ages of 40 and 60. Many first-time customers do not know the difference between indicas and sativas, or THC and CBD. They do not have a medical card (even if they qualify for one), and they do not have any black market connections. Customers are consistently laughing about how “pot” has changed since they were younger. They either received wet pot, dry pot, leafy pot or pot full of seeds. There were very few choices, if any, back then. Perhaps this explains why the revenue from I-502 is constantly climbing.
A typical, first-time customer will immediately let you know that they have never been in “one of these stores before” and that they don’t even know where to begin. This is when your budtender will comfort them and begin with some very basic cannabis knowledge. It doesn’t take long for them to realize the budtender is an expert, and then they ask “what is your favorite” and “have you tried it?” It is very difficult for a budtender to give a review and recommend a particular product if they have not tried it before. Licensed retailers are allowed to accept four grams of usable marijuana each month from a processor, to negotiate a sale. These samples must be manifested in the traceability system before you can accept them. I suggest passing these samples out to your budtenders for consumption in their off time. If you require them to report back to you with their opinion, it will be much simpler to narrow down your favorite vendors.
You will also have “professional” cannabis consumers frequent your store. Although they have access to medical or the black market, some prefer to purchase from a recreational store for several reasons: larger selections, all products tested, easy access and security. They can also safely and legally purchase on their schedule, and not just whenever it is convenient for their “connection.”
Mr. Bill’s implemented a Customer Rewards System to manage their clientele. They are able to address customers by first name and review their purchase history, to know what products they prefer. This allows them to provide a personal experience with every visit.
Many of your customers will be naïve to cannabis. It is very important to educate them on the wide range of options available in your store. Give them a wonderful experience to ensure repeat customers.
Colette Thomas is a partner of Recreational Marijuana Management, which provides consulting services for I-502 retailers on licensing and compliance. RMM has assisted multiple retailers pass final inspection and open for business.