Merchandising Tips & Tricks

February 9, 2015

The cannabis retail World is changing.  Fast.

We have gone from a consumer base of medical card-holding individuals with specific needs and tastes, to a consumer base of virtually anyone over the age of 21.  Now more than ever, we can leverage established retail design principles and consumer behavior insights to grow our businesses and tap into our customers’ spending power.

As the great Paco Underhill states, “Marketing, advertising, promotion and location can bring shoppers in, but then it’s the job of the merchandise, the employees, and the store itself to turn them into buyers.” 

So, how does a cannabis retail store attract new shoppers and turn each shopper into a buyer?

“By selling weed!”

Well, maybe that has worked out alright for dispensaries thus far.  But folks, in 2015 and beyond, things are simply not going to be that easy.  “We have a false sense of security in the cannabis industry because competition is artificially limited by local & state regulation. You can expect the number of your competitors to double locally in the short term (as localities allow for more licenses) and you can expect well-funded national brands to rush into the space (as more states legalize),” notes the brilliant Jazmin Hupp of

You need to do more than just offer a product to maintain a competitive advantage, in other words.  A better way of converting shoppers to buyers is through incorporating merchandising and display techniques that fit the way our customers shop and the way our shops operate.

It’s a Visual World

Merchandising techniques are the magic tricks of the shopping experience.  They get products on the shelves, determine their adjacencies, and make them more desired and easier to purchase.

Retail merchandising is a $35 billion per year industry, fueled by the fact that consumers are increasingly less brand loyal and have many options when it comes to choosing where and how they buy.  The store is now the most important medium for transmitting and closing sales.

Here at The High Road Design Studio, we want you to turn your merchandising efforts into guaranteed sales by focusing on displays, adjacencies, and accessibility.

Create displays and signage that sell product, not store it.

“Signage, shelf position, display space and special fixtures all make it either more or less likely that a shopper will buy a particular item (or any item at all).”  --Paco Underhill

  • Because of the size and delicate nature of cannabis products, product shelving should be placed no more than seven feet away from where the customer stands to view it. 
  • Shelving and displays should be designed with scale in mind so they never look too empty or overly cluttered. 
  • One of the most effective locations for signage and messages is eye-level at the cash register.

Birds of a feather need to flock together.

When designing your product displays, keep in mind the importance of adjacencies.  Adjacencies are about how placing one item next to another creates a spark and sells more of one or both of the items.

Take advantage of adjacencies with these tips:

  • Place products next to other products that not only are commonly sold with it, but that help make the experience of one or both of the products more enjoyable or beneficial to the customer.
  • Think about the order that products are used in as well— do people come in looking for a dab rig before they are interested in buying concentrates?  Not usually.
  • Adjacencies can boost sales of add-on products and increase average transaction amounts.  Smaller, add-on items in your store usually have high profit margins, too.  The pack of rolling papers, the glass pipes, the grinders, the edibles, the vape pens—these are all things that people not only want, but often times need.

And remember, 60% of what people buy when they go shopping isn’t even on their list.  We are all impulse shoppers and get pleasure when we find products that unexpectedly enhance our experience.  Adjacencies help us find those little morsels of consumer satisfaction.

Show and tell to sell!

Quiet that little voice screaming, “you break it, you buy it!”  In a visual world, you have to play to all the senses and yes, that includes touch.  One massive advantage our industry has that other retail industries is that our customers have to still come into a store to buy our products, with very few exceptions.  We have the opportunity to let customers examine our products, so whenever possible, let your shoppers interact.

  • Adhere to the senses by making people want to reach out and touch your products. This is best done through clean, welcoming display cases that are representative of your product. 
  • Testing leads to buying.  According to the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers who touch products will pay more money for them than those who have to keep their hands off the merchandise. Encourage buying by offering samples sizes or conducting product demos of merchandise or accessories.
  • Bonus: customers who interact with a product begin to create a sense of ownership. This not only closes the purchase funnel, but creates patient loyalty.

Take note from retail stores like Brookstone and Sephora, who offer samples and encourage interaction with their products.  The cost of the demo/sample product is so offset by the increase in sales that it is worth having 5 expensive massage chairs on the sales floor for customers to experience in person.