Living the Dream: Helen Cho

Helen Cho

Director of Strategy

Aloha Green Apothecary

Honolulu, HI

How were your 4/20 sales numbers? At the time of writing, we are in the midst of planning for 4/20. This year is interesting, with the day sandwiched between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Hawaii law requires us to close on state and federal holidays, which means we must close on Friday and then hope for the best as we share Sunday with Easter egg hunts and church services. We feared losing some of the valuable “vibe” on the days before and after 4/20: excited patients celebrating cannabis, a lift in dispensary sales, an overall happy buzz among our employees, increased mainstream awareness, etc.

But it was a blessing in disguise. This year’s 4/20 forced the company to look at doing things differently. We decided to stretch out that “vibe” for as long as possible. Our plans were made for a strong month, rather than a strong week.

Deciding to focus on the entire month changed the way we approached our overall strategy. We had more space to execute different layers of the month’s plan, which meant more opportunities to make those strategies work together to help us control sales spikes, better manage our inventory and stay in more frequent contact with our patients. Here are some highlights:

1. Sales schedule: 4/20 has become such a force in itself that even if there wasn’t the expectation of discounts and free swag, people would still purchase cannabis on the day to participate in the celebration. We aren’t worried about 4/20. No one is. But we want to make sure the other days in April aren’t neglected when patients wait until that weekend for their bulk purchases. To bring in the “vibe” earlier and help it last, we planned our discounts to start a week before 4/20 and keep going until the end of the month. The most popular items are given sales time in the weeks before and after 4/20, with deep discounts on the products that we need to move on the weekend.

2. Inventory management: The opportunity to move so much product over the entire month revealed a communication bottleneck between the dispensary and the production facility. We realized we finally had a way to manage some of the isolated, but still troublesome inventory stockpiles we had accumulated. It was for our April plans that the two departments created new communication methods. The dispensary’s sales schedule and planning now considers everything in the pipeline, not just the last leg.

3. New products: The original plan was to introduce seven new products on 4/20 to get people in the door. But it also meant that patients would wait for the new products, preventing earlier purchases, and would buy these new products instead of their normal purchase. The new releases would cannibalize our own sales, so we chose to stagger the releases. Patients interested in the new products would make an extra visit and it would be easier for our patient consultants to introduce the products individually.

When you combine all the pieces together, the overall marketing message becomes a comprehensive story that plays out over several weeks, with 4/20 shining as the golden crown.

It’s important to keep your company’s objectives and needs ahead of the strong social and competitive pressures of doing things the way everyone else does them. Don’t give up your kingdom for a crown!


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