Recreational cannabis stores have been open for business in most Canadian provinces for almost two years. Although still early in the industry’s evolution, we are starting to observe some independent retailers, franchises, and chains gaining in popularity and prominence. Alberta continues to lead the nation with over 500 stores. British Columbia and Ontario follow behind with approximately 250 shops and 140 shops respectively. Through store openings, mergers, acquisitions, lockdowns, being declared an essential service, and more – 2020 has been a wild year for retailers in this industry. Let’s take a look at the Canadian cannabis storefront brand finalists as voted by you, the ADCANN community.
Spiritleaf is one of the largest cannabis retail chains in the country. Billing themself as “Canada’s Most Trusted Cannabis Store”, the brand (owned by Inner Spirit Holdings) operates 67 corporate and franchise locations across five different provinces, including 16 stores in Ontario.
Spiritleaf storefronts are classy and modern but also down-to-earth and authentic. The shops feature a plethora of dark hardwood on both the floors and the walls. Hanging planters and green plants are scattered throughout and the walls are elegantly painted with positive messaging and graffiti-style artwork in some locations.
Spiritleaf hosts a blog and media portal on their website known as “The Leaf”, which produces informational, educational, and lifestyle content. The Leaf also provides corporate updates about the company including new location openings. In addition to selling cannabis products, the chain also has their own line of merchandise and smoking accessories. Spiritleaf-branded apparel, grinders, and pipes can be found online and in-store.
”We’re honoured to be nominated for Storefront Brand of the Year alongside other great brands. It means a lot for the brand that we have built over these last couple of years to be recognized. For us, the Spiritleaf brand is more than what you see, it’s what you experience. We are fortunate to have great franchise partners and staff who continue to deliver the same top-quality customer service we have become known for in their communities across Canada, especially throughout this past year.Darren Bondar, President and CEO, Inner Spirit Holdings
THC has been setting the standard for cannabis stores long before recreational legalization. They popularized the “Apple Store” aesthetic for Canadian dispensaries, debuting a similar look as early as 2016. With only one location in Vancouver south in British Columbia, this independent retailer punches far above its weight with a cult following and social media community of over 6000 individuals.
THC was meticulously designed with the complete shopper journey in mind. Marble floors and countertops imported from Italy, an Instagram-worthy selfie wall made out of living moss, and bright, well-organized displays with over 200 different types of products in stock. THC is a high-end shop that carries all of the finest craft cannabis offerings for the most discerning of enthusiasts.
The store is located next to Dank Mart, which is a bodega that supplies rare and exclusive snacks and smoking accessories. Because of the beautiful design of the store, the exceptional customer service offered and the proximity to the increasingly popular Dank Mart, THC has been dubbed “Canada’s First Independent Cannabis Destination” by Forbes Magazine.
Choom is one of Canada’s largest cannabis retail chains with over 22 locations across three provinces. The company is headquartered in BC but has opened most of its locations in Alberta. We’ve previously described Choom as a cannabis retailer with the vibe of a high-end surf shop. This chain of stores is clean and modern but is prominently inspired by Hawaiian surf culture, as that’s where the brand’s inspiration comes from. Choom was founded based on the “Choom Gang”, a group of cannabis-loving individuals from Hawaii that included notable members such as Barack Obama.
An impressive amount of tropical plants, hanging planters and living walls can be found throughout the entire shop. The counters are light hardwood with glass and each store features a seating area for customers to sit down, chill out and ask budtenders any questions they may have. The resulting design is bright and clean yet fun and laid-back.
Choom is very active on social media and has a combined following of almost 10,000 individuals across platforms. The brand posts a variety of fun and interactive content including infused recipe suggestions, prize pack giveaways and pro-tips on cannabis consumption and storage. This creativity has also earned them a spot as a finalist in the Best Canadian Cannabis Social Media category in the ADCANN 2020 Awards.
”I’m excited to share our new proprietary digital platform that launches early 2021, we’re designing it to function as more than an ecommerce site, we’re building a true omni-channel community, bringing our customers back time and time again.Danielle Hinan, VP Marketing, Choom
Calyx & Trichomes
Calyx & Trichomes is a unique and well-respected cannabis store with roots in the legacy market. The store is family-owned and based in Kingston, Ontario. They bill themselves as “Kingston’s Cannabis Store,” being the only locally-grown independent retailer in the area.
Calyx & Trichomes embraces the beauty and complexity of the cannabis plant – in their store name and design. To understand the name, you need to understand cannabis anatomy and terminology – which means they are likely attracting knowledgeable and enthusiastic consumers more so than newbies. While other stores have chosen a more simplistic and suggestive approach, Calyx & Trichomes leaves no question about the type of products they sell. From floor to ceiling, the walls of the shop are covered in massive murals of macro pictures of weed leaves, trichomes, pistils, and more.
This store employed the most creative campaign strategy to gain votes in the ADCANN 2020 Awards that we’ve seen to date. Every day on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels – Calyx & Trichomes told a different cannabis-related joke to their followers, with a link to the voting page attached. This was a great way to keep their audience engaged and bring them value while simultaneously driving enough votes to push them into the top five finalists. They use these same social media channels to stay involved with and connected to the Canadian cannabis community.
”We are doing what we love in the city we love and it’s a total dream come true! Now, our little independent store in Kingston, which we designed and built ourselves by following our hearts and trusting our instincts, actually might be recognized as Storefront of the Year?!? It is completely surreal we are in this position, and would be the bright red cherry on our weed sundae. Winning this would make all the uncertainty, exhausting late nights, heartache and bureaucracy we’ve dealt with worth it.Jennawae McLean, CEO + Co-Founder, Calyx & Trichomes
1922 is an independent cannabis retailer located in the historic Old Town neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. Unlike most cannabis retailers who frost the glass of the windows to hide product displays from passerby’s, they have clear windows to provide a more welcoming view of the cozily decorated interior. The staff follows up with a friendly greeting and a very hospitable atmosphere that is likely an effect of the store’s husband and wife owners.
1922’s staff frequently review the products they carry on YouTube, which can also be found on their website. These types of online reviews help build trust between the store’s budtenders and their customers. The company also includes a variety of informational content on their website – further cementing their commitment to customer education.
Their efforts to provide a great in-store experience as well as creating an online community using their unique social content are why they’ve had such support from their fans in the 2020 ADCANN Awards.
”We are honored to have 1922 recognized as a finalist for storefront brand of the year in our first year being an independently owned operator. Our intention was to create a brand that was honest and authentic that supports education to promote a new social understanding of cannabis and cannabis use.Mike Dunn, Owner, 1922 Cannabis Retail
Canadian Cannabis Storefront Brand Trends
- The Importance of Building Your Retail Brand Online
All of these cannabis retail stores have a heavy focus on digital marketing and communications. All five are active on social media with their consumers (and in the case of Spiritleaf and Choom – their investors as well). Since traditional advertising isn’t permitted and many in-person events and activations are postponed due to COVID-19, social media and digital channels are incredibly important for retailers and brands alike looking to gain awareness and loyalty.
- Design Trends
When examining some of the top cannabis storefronts across the nation, we’ve noticed a few interior design patterns. Cleanliness and simplicity are two qualities most of these shops possess. THC is the epitome of this, with a futuristic, Apple Store, spaceship-like feel. Calyx & Trichomes bucks this trend with their old school legacy market feel and giant cannabis murals. Choom combines this cleanliness and simplicity with colourful and fun imagery. All four shops except for THC use a lot of brown and black hardwood as flooring, furniture, and wall paneling. These stores are aesthetically pleasing and most feature some sort of selfie wall or “Instagrammable” installation. In a digital age, one way to become and remain a destination is by encouraging sharing online through intelligent interior design choices.
Potentially most importantly, all 5 of these cannabis retailers have a sense of authenticity. Calyx & Trichomes and THC Canada both come from the pre-recreational market and have built a strong reputation among the Canadian cannabis community. Spiritleaf strives to be the most trusted retailer and is very open, cheerful, and down-to-earth in their messaging. Choom is a brand that stays authentic and true to its values. 1922 shares the full, honest, heartfelt story about their founding on their website in order to humanize their business and connect with their customers. The success of all of these stores proves that when you’re on the front lines selling products to consumers, it is essential to be authentic and truthful.
Last Updated on December 30, 2020 by ADCANN