The BC Liquor Distribution Branch has 20 BC Cannabis Stores in the works that already have local government approval and are currently in the process of being built.
Viviana Zanocco, the branch’s manager of corporate communications, says locations include Penticton, two in Nanaimo, two in Prince George, Vanderhoof, Oliver, Vernon, Prince Rupert, Port Coquitlam, Quesnel, Sechelt, Salmon Arm, Maple Ridge, North Vancouver, Kelowna, and New Westminster. “One or two of those might be pushed into next year,” notes Zanocco, adding that two BC Cannabis Stores have already opened in 2020: Kamloops and Parksville. The Parksville location opened on Jan. 23.
Looking ahead, Zanocco says, the LDB doesn’t have a “hard number” of planned stores in terms of a five-year plan. “The thing is, it’s such a new market and there are other retailers in the mix, so a lot will depend on where they establish themselves,” she explains. “I think when legalization was announced, everybody thought, ‘Oh, we can just open stores tomorrow,’ but it takes times. There were a lot of illicit stores that [were] maybe going legal, so we had to take that into consideration because many municipalities have limits in terms of how far away you can be from another store.”
Since it’s still such a new market, Zanocco says “nobody knows” what cannabis is going to be like. “Is there going to be a Christmas season for cannabis, like how we have for liquor? Is it going to be busier in the summer, which is what liquor does? There are a lot of unknowns in the cannabis retail industry. As we evolve, we’ll see where our communities have the most demand. We’ll try to change our product mix to try and make sure that customers are being served like they would like to be served. What works for one community might not work for another.”
What Products are in Demand?
Zanocco says that when BC Cannabis Stores first launched, they were “really heavy” on the craft cannabis, “but it just didn’t sell” online and in store. “We thought everybody was going to be into this craft, everybody’s going to be into this higher end [cannabis],” Zanocco explains. “But we see the demand for good and better, and not premium.”
In terms of private retailers, she notes there are category managers on the BC Cannabis Store side and category managers on the wholesale side. Those managers work with the retailers to find out what the stores aren’t stocking that they may want. “And if going forward, they want us to bring in product that they are going to buy–that we know they are going to buy, that they commit to buying – then absolutely we’ll bring it in.”
However, as the cannabis retail market evolves, Zanocco says, it could be similar to the liquor side where there are some retailers that are the exclusive retailers of certain products. “For all we know, that will probably develop on the cannabis side.”
Photo of Campbell River’s BC Cannabis Store courtesy of BC Liquor Distribution Branch.