How Michigan Dispensaries Are Handling COVID-19
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
In recent weeks we have interviewed dispensary owners and managers in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Los Angeles to learn how COVID-19 has affected their businesses. These savvy business owners have developed innovative solutions to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Today we turn to the Midwest to see how dispensaries in Michigan have adjusted practices due to COVID-19. The Great Lakes State now has both adult use and medical cannabis, and thanks to a March 16 order, licensed cannabis stores can deliver. Across these 4 interviews, we uncover key insights from Michigan dispensary leaders.
Michael from Common Citizen
How have you had to adjust your operations because of COVID-19?
Our teams have been fully briefed on adhering to the strictest of COVID-19 protocols to keep themselves and our fellow citizens safe. How they interact with each other and customers, what protective equipment they utilize, and how they clean and sanitize are some examples of changes in their responsibilities.
Before COVID-19, our customers were able to come into one of our retail locations and spend some time discussing their needs with one of our highly educated Citizen Advisors on the retail floor, who would then assist them in determining which products were best for them.
With the onset of COVID-19 and a move to curbside pickup only, we fast-tracked getting our e-commerce up and running at CommonCitizen.com to make it easy for our customers to find what they are looking for online.
Now we are offering both curbside pickup or instore service by appointment only, with the number of people inside at one time limited to maintain social distancing.
How does online ordering work at Common Citizen?
Once we receive their order, we contact them when it is ready for pickup. Our biggest challenge was maintaining our high level of personalized consultation from our Citizen Advisors. To continue that level of service, we are encouraging people to call ahead to discuss their needs and our products to find the best options for them.
We offer a home delivery option from our Flint location, and plans are underway to bring delivery service to our Battle Creek and Detroit locations.
How has COVID-19 affected your marketing efforts?
We are “cannabis for humanity.” As such, people have always been the focus of our marketing strategy. At Common Citizen, we say we are not a cannabis company, but rather a people company. It’s not about the plant but the people who can benefit from it. We continue to encourage greater accessibility and access to safe, high-quality product for all Michiganders. We are proud to lead a social movement to normalize cannabis use so more people can experience the greater quality of life it can provide.
What is the primary message you are expressing to your customers?
All three of our Common Citizen locations (Flint, Battle Creek, and Detroit) always put people first. Your health, safety, and well-being are our top priority during COVID-19, as it was before this pandemic and will be afterward. We offer safe, high-quality, 100%-tested cannabis products. Our retail locations are warm, friendly, clean, and inviting. And, our highly educated Citizen Advisors are standing by to help you understand all the wellness benefits of this amazing plant — all the different ways it can help you and those you care about during the continuing pandemic and beyond.
Brandy from Light 'N Up Provisioning and Microbuddery
Have you noticed changes in customer purchase behavior due to the pandemic?
We have seen patient basket sizes increase from $60 to $90 per transaction. We've seen the same amount of demand for flower (60% of overall sales). We've seen certain edibles like Monster Gummies and True North fly off the shelves. We've seen fewer people buying cartridges and more patients buying dabs.
How has COVID-19 affected your marketing strategy?
In terms of marketing, we've been much more focused on our website and driving folks to it to promote online ordering. We always want all our information to be accurate.
Social media has been a pain because of the platforms’ restrictions. We only promote new product drops since we can't promote deals or encourage patients to visit our dispensary in Flint, MI.
We have been using our texting service to link to a special page on our website that only people subscribed to our texting can see, giving them access to special deals. We just send a link and text saying, "Click here for deals."
What is your plan moving forward?
We've seen a 20% increase in sales since the coronavirus epidemic hit Michigan with a fury, and we plan to continue growing to serve our customers’ needs. We take pride in making our online ordering fully accurate, along with providing great detail on every product and unique pictures. I think it's one of the best organized and easiest to use menus in the state!
Erik from Pinnacle Emporium
What changes did you have to make once the pandemic hit?
The changes we’ve had to make are numerous. Obviously, with the governor’s mandated stay at home orders, and forcing some stores to close, we knew things were going to change. Once we were deemed a necessary business, we had to adjust our operation to curbside pickup or delivery only. At first, we cut employees hours but ultimately ended up busier due to having to service customers curbside. Also, the necessary cleaning and disinfecting of the building added a whole new caveat to the workload as well.
Have you noticed customers purchasing more or less than usual?
We’ve definitely noticed a change in buying habits. The average ticket sale has gone through the roof. It’s not uncommon to see $2000 orders. As several of our patients and one Customer said, “if we’re gonna be stuck at home, we might as well have some fun.”
How do you stay up to date on the latest regulations?
We have two attorneys who are extremely proactive in following the current climate of cannabis laws/regulations in Michigan. Myself, my partner, and our entire team are constantly monitoring the MRA/LARA bulletins that are released. You can never be too vigilant, as the rules and regulations can sometimes change daily.
What do you think sets you apart during this challenging time?
At Pinnacle, we offer an extremely different vibe than absolutely anybody in the state of Michigan, and most of the cannabis industry across the country. We have people travel for hours and hours to come to our store and see the unique, counterculture memorabilia collection we display. We’ve truly created a unique vibe that people absolutely love!
While following the states mandated protocols and procedures, we’re still offering the same, fun Pinnacle experience as always. My business partner and co-founder is a doctor, and we pride ourselves on using medicinal grade, cleaning products, similar to the ones found in hospitals and doctors’ offices. We go out of our way to make sure we practice the highest standards of sanitation and disinfection to ensure our customer's and employee's safety in the store.
Nic from Fluresh
How has your marketing strategy been affected by COVID-19?
Our marketing strategy is focused on ensuring our customers are happy and healthy and have a high level of excellent service and communication. We frequently inform our patients about new shopping options, promotions, and new procedures. We recently were allowed to take in-store patients following social distancing protocols. We also implemented an appointment system as well as curbside and delivery options in order to ensure safe access to all of our patients.
What messages are you communicating to your patients right now?
We want patients to know that we have implemented all new cleanliness and hygiene guidelines in order to ensure the safety of our staff and patients. We have a wonderful team that has partnered with the state and local municipalities to ensure we are at the forefront of any guidelines and requirements. Then we use our texting platforms to inform our customers about our new guidelines and shopping options.
We want everyone to know that we are in this together. We strive to be positive leaders and progressive partners in our community. Together we can get through this.
Bianca from Pharmaco Inc
Have you had to adjust employees’ hours or responsibilities due to COVID-19?
We have not adjusted our hours as we have continued to experience an active business through this time. Our employees were offered options on whether they felt comfortable working through this time or not and we have supported them amidst all decisions. We have a handful of employees throughout our locations who choose to stay home during this pandemic and receive unemployment.
For those employees that have decided to continue their work at our provisioning centers, they were given a Hero Pay bonus of $2 more an hour. With that being said, we have hired new employees to fulfill new roles for curbside attendants, pre-packagers, delivery drivers, and dispatchers.
How do you stay up to date on state regulations?
Pharmaco stays up-to-date utilizing all channels that we have access to while ensuring that we receive the most pertinent information as the laws are constantly changing in the marijuana space. Our compliance team works directly with LARA and the MRA when implementing any programs, procedures as well as any compliance issues we foresee to be ambiguous.
How has the pandemic affected your communication strategy?
Our main focus and message is that our locations are dedicated to supporting each other through a time we have never imagined. We want our customers to know we care and are committed to making their days a little easier by supplying the medication and products they need.
Because we are cognizant of the financial struggles many people may be experiencing, they still need their medication/products. We continually change our daily deals and specials to accommodate everyone’s budget. We also have a promotion right now for all essential workers to receive $1 pre-rolls or $10 3.5g of CBD Flower. We regularly sent out messages regarding the safety precautions we continue to follow.
Do you believe COVID-19 will have lasting effects on the cannabis industry?
Honestly, I do not see much change within the Cannabis industry. The recent major changes have been the daily operations, as we are not able to engage with our customers face-to-face in a budroom. However, when our state and nation return to a semblance of the “new normal”, I believe our customers will want to enjoy visiting our provisioning centers and physically shopping for the products they love all while engaging with their budtenders; who have become friends and family. We appreciate our team’s hard work and dedication every day!