As I write this, I’m sitting at my home computer two days after our second RAD (Retail and Dispensary) Expo ended in Portland, Oregon. Our first RAD went well, and the overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees and exhibitors suggested it would be smart to produce a second one.
RAD II was bigger and better than RAD I and sold out quickly. We had exhibitors as diverse as Monster Energy, Jones Soda, Futurola, Deep River Snacks, store design experts and point-of-sale software systems. Dispensary and retail store owners came from all the western states, as well as Canada, Minnesota, Texas and all points in between.
It’s clear that there are big changes going on in the legal cannabis space, and one of those changes is a rapid move toward more professional — and focused — trade show environments. Yes, we all love to party, but it was really obvious from numerous exhibitor comments about other events that were characterized as “a mess” of consumers seeking free handouts that our business-only, retail-focused approach is a winning strategy.
The cannabis industry is actually several different industries, and each deserves its own trade event. I first thought about this a few years ago when I noticed that none of my dispensary owner friends in Washington and Oregon attended MJBizCon in Las Vegas. When I asked why they skipped the show, they said, “I’m a retailer. I have no interest in greenhouses, soil, Big Mike, extraction machines, investor panels or talking to the public.” This, and my previous experience in the media business — where there were separate national trade events for record retailers, DVD companies, book publishers, computer gaming companies, etc. — led me to the conclusion that the all-in-one cannabis trade show may have been a good idea initially, but likely not a long-term model for success.
To put it simply, growing cannabis is a fairly straightforward form of farming/agriculture. Retailing cannabis is also a fairly straightforward affair, but requires a completely different skill set and tool box than cultivation. For help with farming, smart folks look for expert advice about setting up commercial greenhouses, outdoor farms and modern controlled environment agriculture facilities. They can get that information at shows like Indo Expo (Portland/Denver) and Cultivate (Columbus, Ohio). Both events are focused on farming technology and products that help ag businesses operate more efficiently. On the extraction/science side of things, there is the Cannabis Science Conference, also in Portland. It’s focused on extraction techniques and the science behind cannabis and its various components. Now, with the addition of the RAD Expo, cannabis has its first big national business show for the retail side of the industry.
For exhibitors at a focused trade event, they spend less time talking to people who are not their customers or who are just there out of curiosity.
Stay tuned for more info about RAD III. We are committed to Portland, Oregon in 2019 because it is the ideal location for a retail-focused show. Within 30 minutes of downtown there are more than 200 legal licensed marijuana stores in both Oregon and Washington that offer a truly diverse shopping experience that would be beneficial to anyone thinking about opening a cannabis dispensary.