Although the Golden State’s regulated cannabis industry has yet to live up to its incredible potential, dozens of companies are setting new standards with their elegant branding, eye-catching design and groundbreaking consumer experiences.
Among these new leaders, companies like March and Ash, Calma and From The Earth have helped spark a resurgence of Southern California cannabis retail, combining business savvy and substance with the right amount of flash to appeal to a broader market. These forward-thinking businesses not only offer consumers a massive selection of products in a boutique retail setting, but have the infrastructure in place for expansion.
Even with the proliferation of adult-use cannabis stores across California, the vast majority of businesses are still catering to the same 21- to 35-year-old, male demographic — which is exactly why the owners of Calma took their West Hollywood store in the opposite direction.
“In cannabis, when we go into a retail store, a lot of times it can feel really masculine,” says general manager Mara Stusser. “We really wanted our shop to embrace the female consumer. I think when you go back to other big-name shops, you don’t feel a feminine energy. We wanted to make sure that women felt comfortable to come in here.”
Stusser says the store wasn’t built to exclusively cater to female consumers, but nearly every decision about the design and the brand was made to make women feel at home — right down to the store’s name.
“The name ‘Calma’ is actually an Italian feminine noun that connotes tranquility and calmness,” she says. Because the company is mostly led by women and the majority of its staff are women, “it was really important that the design, the team, just everything reflects what ‘calma’ represents.”
And “calm” is perhaps the best way to describe the store’s aesthetic. The sales floor is a sea of marble that ascends from the floor to form neat rows of long, glass-top fixtures and merchandise displays. Stretching across the rear of the store is an ultra-high definition LED video wall that houses another three shelving fixtures and displays beautiful, idyllic visuals in 8K.
“When we brought the video wall into the picture, it really matched everything we were going for because what we would display would be waves crashing on the beach, waterfalls, the forest, sometimes you’re floating through the clouds,” Stusser says. “When customers come in and you have these super-soothing and calming visuals playing in the background, it helps bring that welcoming, calming energy that we wanted.”
Stusser says the staff is responsible for picking out music to accompany the store’s design. She says most music syncs well with the visuals, as long as it’s not too aggressive.
The store carries approximately 2,600 SKUs from nearly 70 brands. Stusser says the store was intentionally stocked to include a variety of products in each category “to make sure that there’s something for everyone at each price point.”
While the coronavirus pandemic delayed the store’s construction by several months, it also gave the team the extra time it needed to redevelop its strategy, scale back projections and get safety measures firmly in place for the store’s debut on July 21, 2020.
“That was one of the biggest challenges we faced,” Stusser says. “We had a whole marketing plan and strategy for our launch that we had been preparing for months. I don’t think any of us expected that we would be opening up during a pandemic, but surprisingly it has been a great experience. We were really able to see that this is an essential business and that people really rely on cannabis during this time.”
Overall, Stusser says the store had little trouble meeting projections, thanks in part to word of mouth and the incoming foot traffic from tourists visiting the iconic Hollywood Boulevard, just two blocks away. Stusser says a recent online review reaffirms that the store’s design is finding its female audience.
“The other day a customer wrote that she felt like she was a princess coming in here,” Stusser says. “That’s exactly what we want to hear. We want to know that the women do have a place to come where they feel welcome, like ‘this is a place for me.’”