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Click-and-collect doesn’t quite cut it for cannabis retailers, but delivery might

On Nov. 4 the province announced Bill 80, the Red Tape Reduction Act (No. 2) which, if passed, would allow online cannabis sales by licensed cannabis retailers.
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Joshua Hrushka, an employee at Plantlife Erin Ridge, is curious to see how the province will make the switch to online sales if Bill 80 becomes law. JESSICA NELSON/St. Albert Gazette

Around a dozen people a day reserve cannabis products through the “click-and-collect” option for Plantlife in St. Albert and a recent announcement from the province has the retailer hoping delivery will be the next step.

On Nov. 4 the province announced Bill 80, the Red Tape Reduction Act (No. 2), which if passed, would allow online cannabis sales by licensed cannabis retailers and discontinue online cannabis sales by Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC).

Janis Robinson, sales and marketing co-ordinator for Plantlife Canada, said the move is exciting.

“[The AGLC] didn't have a huge revenue stream with their online ordering, but the fact that they are stepping out and giving it to the retailers is exciting,” she said.

Both Plantlife store locations in St. Albert have a total of about 400 click-and-collect customers. They see eight to a dozen online click-and-collect orders per day at each location, she said.

During a standard week, they see about 630 retail customers.

Click-and-collect sales have been great, said Robinson. It allows customers to see what they have available and place it on hold.

“For those customers of ours that are regulars, it's an excellent tool for them to reserve what's coming in new every week,” she said. “I think also cannabis consumers like perusing products online and just peeking through and seeing what's available. And I mean, everybody, cannabis consumers are really excited and curious about all the new stuff.”

Dave Berry, vice-president of regulatory services for AGLC, said they have heard a lot from retailers about online sales.

“They would really like to get into the online sales section of business, that it would be a valuable sales channel for them. And perhaps some additional revenue to their bottom line, as they continue their fight to take over market share from the illicit market over time,” he said.

Berry said Alberta has done better than any other province or territory in market penetration and just licensed its 700th cannabis location.

Retailers are not only competing with themselves, but they are also competing with the illicit market that isn’t bound by the same controls and standards for production, sales, and packaging, said Berry.

“Entry into online will give [retailers] additional opportunity to earn revenue, where their bottom line is tight, and they're competing against the illicit market as well. It's not that AGLC was giving up on that endeavor, just that it made sense to provide this opportunity after three years of operation to retailers,” Berry said.

The year-to-date online sales from April 1 to Oct. 31 accounted for 1.1 per cent of AGLC’s total cannabis sales.

“We expect a reduction in $200,000 in net operating income. We did make some money on the online sales platform. But this will provide consumers additional sales channels,” Berry explained.

Robinson said they just filmed training videos they will be sending to their teams who can then show people how to order online in anticipation of the bill passing, allowing online sales for independent retailers.

“Everyone's about convenience and quickness right now,” she said.

She also anticipates AGLC is making the move out of online sales because they will be moving forward on delivery soon.

Currently, Alberta law does not allow independent retailers to deliver cannabis to consumers, unlike other provinces in the country.

“We've just been doing our due diligence and researching how B.C. has been doing with it with how Saskatchewan has been doing with it … Obviously, every provincial [government’s] regulations are all different. We have to really wait and see what AGLC puts out to us,” she said.

Robinson thinks it might mimic liquor delivery services, but is unsure how, say, Skip-the-dishes drivers would be able to get around capacity limitations. She also has concerns about “age-gating” but that is another lesson the liquor industry can possibly teach them.

“We're aligned online with creating online orders. It's just a matter of bringing in the e-commerce sites where you can check your cart out. That's just what's next.”

Before Joshua Hrushka started working at Plantlife last month, he frequently used the click-and-collect option.

He thinks delivery would be a great option for people who just want to relax.

"I had a work party, at a previous job, where we were all getting together and it was the end of the night. We're unwinding but then we're just thinking, it'd be so great if we had a bottle or something to drink, some wine or whatever. So we ordered it from Uber. But the same situation — maybe it's a couple of pre-rolls to pass around or even some cannabis beverages, right?"

The bill, which passed the first reading in the legislature on Nov. 4, would make changes to nine pieces of legislation from five ministries.

Other changes to the Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Amendment Act include enabling municipalities to establish entertainment districts where adults could consume alcohol in designated public areas; allowing licensed cannabis retailers to sell a limited amount of cannabis-related items, such as apparel; and allowing home-made beer, wine, and cider to be served at non-sale special events.

About the Author: Jessica Nelson Local Journalism Initiative

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