How One Cannabis Shop Rode The COVID-19 Rollercoaster

Sales Up 100%, Down 40%

Shiny Bud opened on February 13 with high hopes of capitalizing on a prime North York location next to the notoriously busy Highway 401. The new pot shop has big box retail neighbours like Canadian Tire and The Real Canadian Superstore, and an LCBO, to lure a steady stream of customers to its door. 

Having cleared the province’s regulatory hurdles to get the business approved, the staff of about 40 workers were starting to see rising sales driven by growing customer loyalty. 

“We were looking forward to aggressive growth pretty much immediately. We had a nice momentum going,” said Badyr Valcarcel, Shiny Bud’s director of retail operations. “All of a sudden, COVID-19 hit and basically brought everything to a standstill for us.”

Since its inception nearly two years ago, legal recreational cannabis in Canada’s most populous province has been a realm of uncertainty for businesses. A change of government led Ontario to rethink its mix of public and private ownership. On the first day physical stores were allowed to open last April, only one did. The province still lags behind the store count of its neighbours. Supply challenges have been a fixture. So has fierce competition from the less expensive illegal market. While the ongoing pandemic has caused mass upheaval in retail writ large, most in the cannabis business have never known stability.

“If you’re an operator in the cannabis retail sector, you by your DNA at this point are nimble and innovative and resilient,” said Michael LeBlanc, senior retail advisor for the Retail Council of Canada. “I’ve talked to merchants who left traditional retail businesses, and they said ‘you ain’t seen nothing until you’ve been in the cannabis sector.’”

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