Best Practices

Create Your Space: Design Tips For Retail Cannabis

Your design can determine your success

Chances are the last time you were in a dispensary you were greeted by the same sight: not well lit, cramped spaces, illogical organization, and a display case that felt more foreboding than enticing. Compare that atmosphere to the majority of other retail spaces and the differences are clear. If you own an MMJ dispensary or a recreational cannabis store, it is vital that you create conditions that has the best potential for success for a conversion and repeat business.  You run a very different business that differs from traditional retail and customers won’t feel comfortable buying from you without the right atmosphere.  The problem is that since legal marijuana retailers are so new, there aren’t a lot of examples to go off of. With so much on your plate, from securing your supplies to securing your licensing, it might seem overwhelming to now tackle retail design as well.  However, we aim to make the task easier for you with our retail space design tips that will make your space more inviting to customers and boost your business.


You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

And with a retail space, that first impression is made before walking through the front door.  The goal is to communicate feelings of professionalism and safety with your design; you want people to feel as comfortable walking into your dispensary or store as they would a café.  Things you should consider include:

  • Clear signage indicating the presence of your business
  • Lights that illuminate the sidewalk or other outdoor space in front of your doors
  • A color scheme that feels inviting and works with the general look of the neighborhood
  • Any signs relating to your licensing clearly on display, as well as a notice as to how old you must be to enter the building

And first impressions also extend to the interior of your building as well.  Unlike other types of retail spaces, customers will first need to enter an intake or waiting area where IDs and paperwork are checked.  Due to its very nature, this can feel intimidating to customers, so the goal is to make it as familiar and non-threatening as you can.  While your instinct might be to model it on waiting rooms in doctor’s offices, we suggest you take design inspiration from less clinical settings, such as the waiting areas in portrait studios.


Control the Flow of Traffic

When retail spaces are designed, every choice is purposeful.  Grocery stores place tempting items on end-of-aisle displays to tempt you to walk down them, browse, and ultimately buy things you didn’t know you wanted.  Ikea is designed to feel like a maze and keep you wandering around for hours, making it easier to find those things that weren’t on your list but will make your home feel complete.  In both cases, the idea is to control the flow of traffic, directing customers where you want—wherever will result in better sales for you. While your dispensary or shop is not likely to be as large or involved as grocery stores or Ikea, the idea is still the same: direct the traffic in a way that encourages customers to view the greatest amount of products possible, creating a flow that takes them from the entrance to the checkout.  This might be a simple loop, a series of zig-zags, or something else entirely.  However, it should be purposeful and goal-oriented.


Try to Choose the Right Space for Your Place

If you have already rented or purchased the space for your dispensary or shop, this tip is coming a little too late.  However, for those who are still shopping around, keep this in mind.  This tip is directly related to the above tip as you want to look for space where it is easy to control the flow of traffic. So what spaces are easiest to control?  Those that are rectangular with the length running along the street where your front doors are located—in other words, you want a store that is wide, not narrow.  This set up makes it much easier to create various designs with your displays and, as an added benefit, is also easier to cover with cameras, keeping your space secure.  If you cannot get this shape of space, look for one that is square over one that is narrow.


Know Your Audience and Tailor Your Space to It

The buyers you attract will be directly related to the products you offer.  Are you selling low-cost products that customers will want to grab, buy, and get out of there?  Then look at quick marts for design inspiration.  Are you offering high-end products and accessories that customers will want to learn about before buying?  Look at minimalist places like the Apple Store.  Are you specializing in more artisanal products or edibles?  Then take a look at bakeries and specialized grocery stores for ideas.  While it might seem like your products are different from everything else on the market, ultimately, retail is retail.


Get Ready for Those First-Time Buyers

There are a lot of people out there who are curious about marijuana products, either because they have never tried any before or because they dabbled a bit back in the day but were worried about getting on the wrong side of the law.  Now that these products are legal, they are ready to give them a shot.  And when it comes to your design choices, these are the clients you really need to keep in mind.  Something as simple as bad lighting could be enough to intimidate them and make them question if shopping with you is a good choice.  Consider having a concierge station or a greeter who can help those first-time buyers feel more comfortable and confident in navigating your store.  And remember: emulate standard retail spaces, not head shops.


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