I just got back from Marijuana Venture’s first-ever Retail and Dispensary (RAD) Expo in Portland, Oregon, and I’m happy to say it was a big hit.
We kept the show to a manageable 100 booths and invited marijuana retail store owners and employees from all over North America. We held it Jan. 17-18 at the Oregon Convention Center, a first-rate venue that is easy to get to and a short walking distance to quality hotels.
Marijuana Venture jumped into the national trade show arena because it was obvious to us that there was something seriously missing from the industry: a focused event for retailers.
Having attended — and exhibited at — dozens of cannabis shows over the last few years, I’ve listened to a lot of comments from both attendees and exhibitors. Three big themes come up over and over.
First, some events charge outrageous fees to customers. To put it in perspective, most major trade events in almost every other industry let qualified customers in free, or charge only a minimal ticket price. They do this because exhibitors pay a lot of money for a booth and they expect to see a lot of foot traffic. When you charge hundreds of dollars for the customer to attend, it retards foot traffic and irritates the exhibitors who want their customers to have easy access to the event.
Second, every cannabis show I’ve been to has been a big hodgepodge of grower products, extraction machines, investor seminars, greenhouses, bongs and just about every imaginable product or service that has a connection to legal cannabis. Very few retail store owners from Oregon, Washington or Alaska bother to attend the big marijuana trade shows. (At the November cannabis convention in Las Vegas, I only saw two retailers from the Northwest.) Retailers usually say the existing shows don’t have anything for them or the events are way too expensive for what they do offer.
Finally, most cannabis shows will let anyone in if they pay enough. While this might be a good way to generate quick cash and boost attendance numbers, it’s not a recipe for long-term success. Exhibitors, who spend good money for their booths, get tired of talking to “dreamers” and non-industry people who waste time looking for free samples and going on endlessly about products and services they have no real intention of buying.
So we decided to go against the prevailing trends of most cannabis trade shows.
The RAD Expo was free (for qualified business people who registered early), highly targeted and industry only. We heard over and over that the quality of attendees was outstanding.
Exhibitors ran the gamut of retail-related goods and services, including architects, interior layout professionals, point-of-sale software systems, packaging companies, shelving manufacturers, flooring companies, ATM businesses, growers, paraphernalia distributors and more.
Our team has already started working on RAD II for October 10-11 with the same formula that made the first one successful. We will again make it free for all qualified attendees — those currently in the business or planning to open a store or dispensary — and it will be focused specifically on the retail side of the industry.