Analysis: The New Green Rush — Legal cannabis is the next great retail opportunity

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Analysis: The New Green Rush — Legal cannabis is the next great retail opportunity

By Alasdair Lennox - 10/15/2019
Alasdair Lennox
Alasdair Lennox

“Sex, drugs and rock and roll” was the term youth-culture of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s used to differentiate themselves from their uncool parents and the conservative notions of what it meant to be part of the “grown up society.”
In 2019, however, all those didactic notions have been blown away by the forces of culture and commerce: Sex and sexuality are no longer “dirty little secrets”; hip-hop is today’s rock ‘n roll; and drugs, specifically cannabis, are legal in some form in most states.

Cannabis has developed a unique place in public perception right now. The taboo is fading and the demand is growing; the route to market and the consumer expectation is both faster and higher. Cannabis retail is emerging from the dark alleyways onto the bright main streets of America. Like the gold in the 19th century that first brought settlers to California, marijuana legalization has started the new “Green Rush.” While traditional stores are closing their doors, cannabis retail is opening new doors fast, which has created the opportunity for some big-thinking brands to become the first coast-to-coast, mainstream cannabis retailer with a consistently high-quality branded offer.
Forget lava lamps, incense and Grateful Dead music, these stores are more in-line esthetically with a Starbucks or Nike store than some Cheech & Chong cliché. But perceptions are tough to break, especially with so many people clinging to their NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mindset in their local neighborhoods. The question then becomes how do you de-stigmatize one-time vices? The answer is found in four simple checkpoints for future of cannabis and vice retailing in general.
Professionalism: Perception is everything, so making cannabis stores professional, bright, clean, just like one would find in stores selling cars, phones or high end shoes, is a good start to making those who might reflexively be against cannabis rethink their position.
Education: For some cannabis is still something illicit with no real redeeming value. We now know that simply isn’t true, but stores need to demystify cannabis and by educating consumers about the health and wellness benefits and how different strains and levels of potency can have real redemptive value for an array of ailments. 
Transparency: Being above aboard in all its dealing with the public, with a clear understanding of the origin, process, quality control and well-trained, educated sales team will go along way to changing minds. 
Playfulness: Not necessarily for every brand, but being perceived as fun and irreverent can help make serious, taboo subjects more accessible.
The green rush is coming and the smartest brands are already figuring out to make the product as “normal” and accessible as any other store you’d find in your local mall or main street. 

Today’s vices at the retail level are becoming so normalized that we may soon change the sex, drugs and rock and roll adage to something like health, wellness and, well of course rock and roll.

Alasdair Lennox is executive creative director of Fitch New York.

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