Prepare To Experience Cannabis Like Never Before, Without Stepping Foot Into A Dispensary

Prepare To Experience Cannabis Like Never Before, Without Stepping Foot Into A Dispensary

David Carpenter 

It’s all about the experience. Whether it’s the Museum of Ice Cream or a pop-up shop in Venice Beach, consumers love to touch, smell, taste and fully immerse themselves in products. The department store Sharper Image pulled that off masterfully in the 1990s with cutting-edge electronics displays, and more recently footwear maker Timberland created a full-on terrarium experience inside their store in Manhattan. And later this year, fashion icon Tyra Banks has plans to open a modeling theme park called Modelland to bring the catwalk to the mall masses.

Smart retailers now have a laser focus on the power of delivering that kind of great customer experience to potential buyers, people hungry for engagement with cool new products. They appreciate that patrons want to both revel in and better understand upcoming, stylish products before they drop a C-note, say, on the perfect hoodie.

Enter cannabis brands.

Just last month, Barneys Beverly Hills stunned the buying public when it announced the creation of an upcoming cannabis shop launching within the luxury department store called “The High End.” The store within a store will sell everything from $950 bongs to high-quality vaporizers and concierge-delivered marijuana flower by the service Emjay.

That move by Barneys was a huge event in the maturation of cannabis as a mainstream retail product. While veterans in the pot industry for years have been forecasting Big Marijuana’s encroachment — in the form of Walmart or Costco descending with inferior large-scale weed production — there’s been very little talk about existing sophisticated brands that could actually elevate and celebrate great cannabis goods.

Now one company is launching an experiential retail store that will do just that.

Media outlet Cannabis Now — respected as an industry leader in cannabis news, culture and education — will open a branded retail and wellness store in trendy West Los Angeles on April 19. The 2800 square-foot store at the Beverly Connection will feature demonstrations and product launches with fully educated staff to guide consumers through each experience. Cannabis products — which will not contain THC, the psychoactive property in cannabis — will range from beauty to lifestyle to home and fashion. Many of the products will contain CDB, the non-psychoactive aspect of cannabis.

Planned retail collaborations include creations from Foria, Apothecanna, Greenlane Holdings and Eaze Wellness. And just in time for the legalization of hemp at the federal level in the U.S. beginning earlier this year, Cannabis Now will also unveil a new line of vaporizers and full-spectrum hemp oil produced by G Pen and engineered by Cannabis Now’s exclusive global brand manager Stephen Ascher, III (“Stevie”), President and CEO of  Miramar Brands Group.

I recently caught up with Cannabis Now’s CEO Eugenio Garcia to talk about his vision for the store and how the venture fills a much-needed niche as millions of Americans this year become familiar with legal cannabis.

Forbes: Your new retail store approach will have a lot to do with educating people on cannabis, right?

Eugenio Garcia: That’s correct. It will feature high-quality installations focused on smart educational expressions, giving curated brands the opportunity to work directly with customers and explain the benefits of their products.

What will those featured installations look like?

We plan to have everything from one-on-one educational opportunities with industry experts to micro-meetups and panels to virtual reality and augmented reality tours of dispensaries and grow operations.

Part of the environment will include an area to sample terpenes, which are the essential oils of the cannabis plant. Can you explain what that will look like?

The True Terpenes wall will be a permanent installation that allows people to physically smell different terpene profiles as they are being educated on them. They can actually smell the individual flavors of the cannabis plant in a federally legal environment.

A rendering of the Cannabis Now store, opening in L.A. April 19.  COURTESY OF CANNABIS NOW

So your store will not sell psychoactive products. How did you come to that decision?

Cannabis Now has always had a focus on being a change maker and innovator in the media and brand space. We make it a point to team up with the best in class and create change where the market is being undeserved. So much of the current focus on cannabis retail is on the dispensary model and cannabis that contains the high-inducing compound THC. We want to disrupt that with an experience that serves people interested in the broader uses for cannabis. Currently there are no non-THC retail expressions. With the passing of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill — and the growing awareness of the benefits of CBD products — this is another direction to explore in the post-prohibition era.

Who is the typical customer you’re looking to attract to your experiences?

Just like we have done with the magazine, we will appeal to the majority of customers who are looking to cannabis for health and wellness purposes. That could be athletes, people looking to get better sleep, treat anxiety or add cannabis to their beauty routine. About 30 percent of our store will focus on CBD-rich products. That being said, there will also be plenty for the recreational user who just loves the lifestyle to enjoy and purchase as well.

Have you thought about how you’ll appeal to different demographics, from cannabis connoisseurs to newcomers?

The store will be designed so that customers can interact and learn at their own pace and comfort level. If they are very experienced and coming to get the latest and greatest, we will have it. If they are total newbies, we will have dedicated staff to educate each customer on how the products work, what the options are, and what fits into their lifestyle.

Why did you choose the Beverly Connection shopping center in Los Angeles for your first location?

L.A. is the true epicenter of cannabis right now, as well as the place where the creative class is gathering. Film, fashion, art — all are peaking in Los Angeles right now, and we see cannabis as another part of the culture just as those things are. The Beverly Center and Connection are globally recognized as destinations for retail shopping, so it makes sense to be where that is all happening. Activating in a high-profile, mainstream retail setting is the next step in the normalization of cannabis.

What are you hoping the key takeaway will be from customers visiting the Cannabis Now store?

We’re hoping that consumers find the environment to be a place where they can gain information about THC and the growing legal recreational market — but also where they can learn about and purchase CBD-rich products. It’s an environment where people can window shop and not feel compelled to walk out with THC products. A shopper who’s not ready to step into a dispensary — or doesn’t need that service — would come to our store. The Cannabis Now store is the first expression of the future of an industry where spending power is more focused on non-THC products.

David Carpenter is a contributing writer for Forbes covering cannabis from an entrepreneur’s perspective.

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