Multistate cannabis operator Curaleaf recently closed its acquisition of Grassroots Companies, expanding its operations to more than 3,000 employees in 23 states across 22 cultivation sites, 30 processing facilities and 88 dispensary locations.
As the company continues to expand into one of the largest cannabis operators in the United States (if not the largest), Chris Melillo, the company’s SVP of retail, says the Curaleaf team is on a mission to modernize the cannabis retail experience.
The company has taken a strategic approach to refine its in-store and online spaces to tailor the retail experience to each unique customer and patient.
“The business is changing and it’s evolving, it’s modernizing,” Melillo tells Cannabis Dispensary. “It’s really about building this ecosystem as we move forward, putting the patient or consumer at the middle, and then building out the ecosystem around the patient. I think it’s really acknowledging the past of where we were [and] where we are today, but ultimately, where is this industry going and how do we appeal to everybody?”
Curaleaf has recognized the need to make cannabis retail appealing for men and women of all age groups, as well as customers and patients with varying levels of experience with cannabis.
This has translated into a redesign of the physical layout of Curaleaf’s stores, which has taken place over the last year, Melillo says.
“[We’re] making it more modern, more inviting [and] a little bit warmer [with] more earth tones—again, appealing to a broader audience,” he says. “I think we’re starting to move away from where it was a little bit more traditional or clinical. … While we still provide a medical service and it’s important for us to understand our roots, [we must] continue to evolve as the industry has opened up and people have become more accepting. It’s become more mainstream now, so we want more … inviting … layouts that are a bit more conducive to what the future of cannabis is going to look like.”
In addition to revamping its brick-and-mortar dispensaries, Curaleaf is also focused on streamlining its online shopping platforms through changes that have been expedited by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With the everchanging regulations surrounding the coronavirus crisis, the Curaleaf team had to adapt quickly to connect with consumers online, and the company’s patients and customers can now use its digital platforms to get information about products, see the daily menu at local dispensaries, reserve products for purchase and more.
“We just recently went through a complete new relaunch of the Curaleaf website,” Melillo says. “It geolocates where you are, so wherever you are in the country, it’ll put you to your nearest Curaleaf dispensary and it will bring up that menu and let you shop there. You can pre-order online and pick up in an express fashion if that’s what you choose to do, or you can still go in store and have a more traditional experience, [where you] talk to a Curaleaf employee [who] can walk you through features and benefits of any of the formats of the products that we sell, depending on the state you’re in.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led Curaleaf to implement new pieces of technology to increase safety for its customers. This includes a virtual waiting room made possible through the Waitlist Me app, which allows the company to monitor its wait and text patients and customers when their order is ready.
The company also offers cashless transactions at its dispensary locations through the use of a handheld ATM that functions like a debit card.
“A lot of technical things that we’ve done over the last four to six months have really propelled cannabis from where it was to where we are today, and I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” Melillo says. “I think it will continue to progress in a fashion that will not only keep up with traditional retail, but at some point it will have to continue to evolve as a more sophisticated retail business with shopping online, in store, … delivery and product on demand.”
These various retail experiences all play in to the ecosystem that Curaleaf is trying to create, Melillo adds, where those who are exploring the plant for the first time as well as experienced cannabis users can shop in store or request delivery or curbside pickup, depending on their needs.
“We put the consumer at the center of this ecosystem and continue to serve them with whatever they need with high-quality products at a fair value,” Melillo says.
Curaleaf’s modernized approach to retail reflects the broader cannabis movement, he adds. As states across the country continue to legalize medical and adult-use cannabis, change is happening, and Melillo believes Curaleaf should in turn build a customized journey for the patients and consumers that come to its retail outlets.
“It’s a movement, and I think it’s our job to be out in front and lead the change in a responsible way,” he says. “I think modernizing the company and bringing innovative ideas, innovative products [and] new brick-and-mortar retail landscapes to the forefront of the cannabis industry is going to be paramount as we continue to build Curaleaf.”
Feedback on Curaleaf’s changes has been positive from both employees and customers, Melillo says, and the company has seen an uptick in business, although it is difficult to pinpoint whether the increased sales stem from the revamped retail experience, the recent Grassroots acquisition, COVID-19 or all of the above.
“There are a lot of things at play, but we know creating a national brand with a unified look across the country is going to be important for the future of Curaleaf,” Melillo says. “The experience tied with that is critical."