Waterloo Region Gets Its First Cannabis Stores
Kitchener finally has its first cannabis retail store, and the second cannabis retailer to open in the tri-cities in as many weeks. Meta Cannabis Supply Co. opened its doors to its Fairway Drive location on February 28th. Tokyo Smoke however beat META by a week, opening the doors to its Pinebush Dr, Cambridge location February 19th. A third location, Bud and Sally, is preparing to open its downtown Waterloo location this month in the former location of the iconic OW Sports. Prior to this, the region had a sum total of 0 stores despite having the 10th largest population in the country. By comparison, at the end of 2019, London Ontario had 3 retail locations, and Ontario as a whole had 24. 2020 however has brought on the implementation of new provincial legislation along with the second wave of lottery winners which has led to Cambridge and Kitchener finally getting a bricks and mortar location, and others slated to open in the region in the coming weeks.
META is new to the region but not new to the industry
Although META is new to the region, they are not new to operating cannabis stores. In a recent conversation with Matt Ryan, VP of Marketing with META, he discussed what they have learned in the process of running what was initially nine stores in Manitoba, and 1 in Saskatchewan. Ryan believes that creating customer loyalty is built on ensuring that the store is in a great location, easily accessible with ample parking, and convenient to shop in. Once that is established creating a cool vibe is what will keep customers coming back. Further to creating a customer friendly location META is also committed to helping educate its customers. On occasion the store will feature brand ambassadors from the various licensed producers in addition to what META refers to as “Friendly Guides” – highly educated employees that work in the retail outlet on a daily basis.
META carries a broad range of products
With respect to the product lines that META will be offering, Ryan suggests that META is committed to carrying a broad range of products, from several licensed producers, with the objective of being able to offer competitive pricing along with the ability to serve a variety of demographics. The size of the location is instrumental in achieving this by allowing for space to be able to showcase and carry many different products. Having said that, Ryan feels that currently the majority of the customers who visit the store are not shopping the brand as much as they are shopping for a particular effect or potency. It could be about the quantity of THC vs. CBD or they are looking for edibles over flower. He feels that over time this will change as people become more familiar with the brands, and better understand what experience those particular brands and products provide.
Opening stores has not been without its challenges
Not surprisingly Ryan suggests the biggest challenges that META has faced in rolling out its retail locations has been navigating the ever-changing regulatory landscape. The rules have shifted dramatically since recreational legalization came into effect Oct. 2018. The other challenge that they faced, at least when META initially launched was the lack of supply available from the LPs. Today that supply shortage no longer applies to flower, but is now being felt by the edible and concentrate market.
When asked whether there have been any challenges in dealing with the community Ryan explains that Kitchener has been seemingly accepting of the legalization of recreational cannabis from the outset. As he suggests, the demographic is high in the 25-35 year old age group drawing from the student base of two universities and one college. If the line-ups at the store are any indication it would seem that Kitchener has been extremely accepting of a cannabis store, and it has perhaps been very much long overdue.