First in an ongoing series of Q&A’s with leaders and experts sharing valuable B2B-focused experiences, insights and guidance for the cannabis and CBD industry.

Today we are speaking with Lynn Young on what are some of the key considerations for success in the design and construction of cannabis dispensaries and retail stores. Lynn is an experienced and recognized leader in the design and build of cannabis dispensaries and retail spaces and who has worked with some of the most regarded brands in the industry.

Q. What are the key design elements of a dispensary/retail space that are unique and important to the cannabis industry that are different from other retail spaces?

A. Cannabis dispensary interior design and construction has transformed since the beginning of the legalization of marijuana.

One of the most important differences are the layout of the cannabis retail security systems. The cannabis industry requires great attention to detail to avoid compromise with things like camera placement, entry and access authorization, record/logging of visitors and authorized areas, and management of exit and entry and doors.  While retail generally must always consider security, for the cannabis industry it is a significantly greater concern and must be one of the most key considerations in your design and construction process.

Cannabis retail owners can have specific signage regulations that they must follow to maintain compliant to the state in which they are located. In some cases, there are specifics to what type of signage is allowed, the placement and the number of signs visible to the street, all which greatly impact overall design aesthetics and business visibility.

Unlike traditional retail that has pronounced window coverings, cannabis retailers are often required for their product to remain somewhat discrete from the outside. The typical window shopper often is met with businesses that are without storefront windows or are heavily tinted to obscure visibility. Though transparency is not highly regarded in cannabis retail store fronts, we are now seeing a trend of dispensaries incorporating displays of clothing and accessories, taking on some of the traditional retail best practices and incorporating lifestyle branding.

Lastly, I would also say that proper design of the environmental aspects of the space are critical.  These include overall temperature control, avoiding glare off digital menus, customized lighting that may vary from the sales floor, to storage to the management offices. Additionally, critical to use shatter proof fixtures and casings to avoid damage of the product and fading of the labels and packaging.

Q. Given that many products in a dispensary are perishable, what are some of the key considerations that need to be taken into account to address?

A. When we think of cannabis, its often in the form of the cannabis flower and edibles without association of the products being perishable or classified as food items, which is a critical miss.

The cannabis industry is a forever updating regulations to take into account the safety of the consumable cannabis products. Cannabis safety guidelines are heavily monitored, yet often during the design and construction phase, product placement and cannabis food safety regulations are not fully incorporated.

Avoiding prolonged exposure to heat, moisture, light or oxygen will ensure adherence to safety provisions and maintain product freshness. It is critical to properly design lighting, ventilation, temperature control, humidity and equipment placement within the space. Infused edibles such as gummies, chocolates, baked goods, beverages, waxes, tinctures and concentrates require proper storage, temperature control and legible product information.

Diving into three specific areas a little more:

HVAC:  Often HVAC systems that are reaching their end of life may have restricted airflow and drip condensation onto fixtures and product. Quarterly planned maintenance is important to ensure proper functioning of balanced air flow and temperature control.  Critical to be aware of and address excess moisture that may introduce harmful bacterial and contamination into the environment and the damage to product packaging and labeling.

Refrigeration: The proper store of certain consumable products in refrigerated environments is critical to their freshness and avoiding spoilage, namely for edible chocolates, baked goods, concentrates and beverages.  Inclusion in design and build of top trusted brand refrigeration systems such as True, ensures locking capability, climate control, proper storage and the ability to display product for consumer selection.

Natural light & product placement: Natural light is a generator of heat within the space. Often time store front windows receive direct sunlight that increases the temperature on the sales floor. Products placed near the store front window heat index can be compromised with high temperatures causing them to degrade. Applying commercial sun control window solutions is important to allow light but reducing heat, keeping the products cool and customers comfortable.

Q. Given that many dispensary owners have plans to own or run multiple locations, even if they only have a single location initially, how should they approach the design and build process?

A. There is a lot of planning that goes into the design and construction of a cannabis retail store. Most owners occupy older spaces suited for traditional retail businesses or other businesses and thus often require a higher level of build-out. To convey the owner’s brand and capture customer retention, here a few key tips that I’ve learned through working on cannabis design and construction projects:

  • Understanding your State requirements and regulations will ensure your design plans will meet the criteria for operations at your initial location and consistency with additional locations. This information can be conveyed prior to start of construction meetings with architects, designers and construction contractors saving time and cutting unnecessary costs.
  • Understand how to incorporate the desired design aesthetics to the layout and available square footage along with the various State and local building requirements.
  • You have specific areas that need attention such as product storage, employee breakroom and security to name common basics. How your design must incorporate all from the beginning to ensure a well functioning layout.
  • Will your design align with your customers and offer the ultimate consumer brand experience? Remember, first impressions can determine if a customer returns or not. Keeping your brand congruent with your store layout can create distinctive brand culture and ambience for customers.
  • Lastly, future growth. What are you designing and how will that look on a larger scale if considering expansion? Designing a store layout that works and getting it right the first time serves as a blueprint for future dispensaries. Capturing data of customer experience gives real time feedback on if your design creates a customer friendly and compliant space.

Q. What are your thoughts on incorporating digital components into a dispensary, e.g. kiosks, digital menus, etc.?

A. Digital technologies can definitely add convenience, improved operations and education into a dispensary.  Kiosks can afford customers the ability to pre-order product with self-pick up options avoiding lines and wait times. Digital menus offer great updates on products and pricing, display promotions and advertisements and can manage real time inventory and offer customizable options for customer interaction.

These different technologies also deliver brand awareness, education and efficient operations though effective facility services and management.

These digital technologies can also help to support the compliance aspect of the dispensaries such as track-and trace that is required in states like California and also the management of customers daily purchase limit.  There is an opportunity to have a wonderful weave of technology and culture for both medicinal and recreational cannabis sales, that if done well, offer significant benefits to both the business owner and the customers.

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As the Senior Vice President at Seed to Flower, Lynn Young is an advocate in the practice and cultivation of horticulture initiatives.  Young consults and manages cannabis construction and renovation projects. She also develops standard operating procedures, facility design and construction systems, planning, inspection and also property management services. You can reach her at info.lynnyoung@gmail.com or visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/lynn-y-129a3497/.

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