Indie Retailing 101: Preparing For Strikes & Shortages
Updated: Jun 22
Some saw product shortages due to the BC workers' strike. Others because of the Ontario Cannabis Store cyberattack.
Regardless if you're an operator in BC or Ontario (or any province aside from Saskatchewan), the fact remains: cannabis retailers are at the mercy of government distribution centres.
So unless (or until) reform happens, retailers must prepare for strikes and shortages in their own way.
With our knowledge and expertise here at Burning Tree, we've compiled a few ways to keep goods in stock at affordable prices.
#1 - Offer Other Options for Customers
One way to minimize disruptions is by steering your customers to other products. Maybe it's a different strain of cannabis flower or a different product altogether.
Of course, telling your loyal edible customer that you're short on these items is not ideal. They haven't come to your store to buy flower and make their own THC-infused cookies.
But suppose the other option is no sale at all. In that case, your helpful and experienced budtenders can walk them through the edible-making process with straightforward, easy-to-follow instructions.
Likewise, you can inform someone who buys a specific brand for its terpene profile of alternative options.
For example, they can buy another strain with fewer terpenes and flavonoids at a lower price point.
Cannabis concentrates are extracted specifically for their terpenes.
Suppose they bought a concentrate in addition to their less-than-desirable flower. The resulting mix could be an effective alternative.
Sprinkling the top of your flower with bits of flavourful cannabis concentrates will help bring out the terpene profile your customer loves so much.
Obviously, buying terpene-rich flower is the preferred way to go. But it's time to get creative when you're in a pinch.
#2 - Be Honest and Open with Your Customers
Most customers understand that a cyberattack or a workers' strike is not your fault. Still, it doesn't hurt to communicate with them about out-of-stock brands.
Make sure your messaging is sympathetic. More often than not, budtenders are cannabis consumers themselves. They should be able to relate with customers about these challenges in the supply chain.
Customers may check out other retailers for their favourite brands. Still, focus on their needs and communicate with them openly and transparently until your shelves are whole again. You'll have a better chance of seeing those customers return.
One simple trick is to take down their number and information (assuming you don't already have a loyalty program that allows you to communicate with them). Once the product is back in stock, send the customer a personal message to let them know.
#3 - Prepare for Shortages Before They Happen
During Ontario's cannabis shortages, larger retailers were able to move inventory between stores to help soothe the shortages.
Smaller retailers were unable to do that. They also can't purchase and sit on a large inventory in case of a rainy day.
However, retailers can keep an eye out for the broader trends that lead to such situations. While Ontario's cyberattack came out of the left field, it's not the first time hackers have entered the OCS system.
Likewise, talks of a strike in BC were apparent before it happened. Of course, retailers are busy running their businesses and can't always stay ahead of every trend.
That's where Burning Tree can help. With our knowledge and experience, we can ensure your continued success even when there are factors beyond your control.
While we're all at the mercy of government distribution centres, you can at least take steps to ensure you stay ahead of the game. Connect with us today and find out how.
What's the Toke Away?
PRODUCT ALTERNATIVES - If you are low on a certain favorite strain of a customer see if that strain exists in a different cannabis product type OR if a similar terpene profile is available.
TRANSPARENCY - Customers won't blame you for issues beyond your control. Double down on all your communications to ensure customers know you are thinking about them.
PREPARE - Make sure you have a good pulse on the industry through email newsletters, retail networks, and organizations so you can stay on top of any anticipated supply issues.