Shryne Group CCO Daniel Yi talks retail cannabis in this exclusive interview
Make no mistake about it, Daniel Yi is no fresh face to the cannabis industry. Having been the former Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for MedMen, Daniel is an industry veteran used to taking PR to the next level for high experience cannabis corporations. His teaming up with Shryne Group comes as no surprise as Shryne looks to expand its retail footprint with ‘Experiential Flagship’ and ‘Authentic Retail’ experiences.
We sat down with Daniel to talk about all things retail prior to the opening of Shryne Group’s DTLA Flagship for STIIIZY in this exclusive interview.
MRR: Can you tell us a little bit about Shryne Group and the background story of you coming into the cannabis industry?
Daniel Yi: I’ve been observing this industry very closely for awhile before making my introduction with MedMen. Now, i’ve been in the industry for the past three and a half years and what struck me as I looked at the industry was the evolution of cannabis retail. California was the first state to legalize medical use in 1996, and back then you had this sort of semi-legal gray area marketplace.
To be perfectly honest with you, before I started working in this industry I didn’t even know what those green crosses were. Once I got into the industry I figured I need to go get a medical card and see what this is all about. And you know in those days, the process was you showed your medical recommendation letter, they put you in the registry, and then you go into heavily guarded rooms caged with metal bars. It looked like you were there to conduct some kind of illegal activity right? It was just very in the shadows, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
Now as it became more and more mainstream, and legal in more and more places, it’s fairly common to see real stores with real planned layouts that are more inviting. Especially here in California, as well as in Colorado and some other states. So what the flagship store represents is sort of the next stage of the retail experience.
Everybody talks about how retail is dead, how brick and mortar is dead, and that is because everybody’s going online to a certain extent. But I think what a lot of retailers have forgotten is how to add value, right? So if the only difference between you and the online retailer is price, then you’re never going to beat them because they don’t have to pay rent. They don’t have to do a lot of the things that brick and mortar retailers have to do.
So how do you add value to the experience of going and shopping at an actual store? So that’s where experiential retail comes in, and that’s what this store reflects. We didn’t invent experiential retail, this is the concept that people who study this area have been talking about for years. But basically what experiential retail boils down to is that you want to give people an experience when they come into the store. So this store, STIIIZY DTLA, you walk in and it’s a very inviting lobby. You check in, there will be, you know, waterfall with the STIIIZY logo on it. You walk into the lobby area of the store, there’ll be a reception area where you show your id, there’s an Instagram station so you can take photos on Instagram. We’re hoping that it will be inspired by local artists because the store is right next to the Los Angeles Arts District.
So you’ll see art there by RETNA and other world renowned artists. RETNA for example, has done covers for Justin Bieber, has done Nike commercials, so to reflect the fact that we are right next to the Arts District, there are a lot of art pieces that people will be able to check out. Another experience is they’ll go through this projection mapping tunnel that’s supposed to give you this sort of this sensation of going on a ride. So it’s dark and it’s got lights projecting onto the walls and ceiling, it’s a tunnel that goes from a wider door to a narrower door and then boom, you’re in the store.
After you are in the store, you’ll see several very distinctive sales pods. Each one of those pods is almost a self contained store in itself because it has the same selection of products. So the idea is rather than having people funneling, creating bottlenecks within the store, they can browse around. I mean, there’s almost no sales floor in the sense that you have to sort of walk up to the counter to see the product and that’s kind of reminiscent of what the medical marijuana dispensaries used to be. So we sort of mix those two by giving people an opportunity to go to each pod and have, you know, checkout different products, but each pod has the same selection of products so there’s no bottleneck and are also a very eye-catching sight.
But there is more to the sales floor than just cannabis. There’s an engraving a station for you to personalize your STIIIZY batteries. There’s merchandise, there’s a lot of clothing and skateboards because STIIIZY has a pretty loyal fan base so our merchandise is to give that whole all around experience, you know, visual, tactile, auditory. So it’s about accumulating all the sensors to give people a reason to come.
MRR: Is this flagship store just a testbed for Shryne Group? If so, are you planning on rolling out the concept beyond California? In essence, what is the future of retail for you guys?
Daniel Yi: That’s an excellent question. So a little bit of a quick background on STIIIZY and its relationship to Shryne Group. So James Kim is one of the co-founders, he and some business partners founded STIIIZY and it launched in November of 2017 just before rec came online in California. Their thought process was that they wanted to create this brand and it’s growth was very organic. James is not somebody with a huge marketing background. He didn’t go into focus groups and trying to figure out like what brand would sell the most. He just basically created a brand that he thought he and his friends would enjoy. So it was very organic, but low and behold, the thing takes off like fire. It has a humongous word of mouth and social media following and so STIIIZY grew as a brand.
Meanwhile, the northern California sort of part a part of this equation, Brian Mitchell, who’s now the CEO of Shryne Group, had been doing business with James and his partners for years and they look at their portfolio and they said, ‘Hold on a second. We pretty much cover the entire state of California. Why don’t we roll all of this up into one holding company and that the result is Shryne Group.
We have seven other retail locations in development, but not all of them are going to be STIIIZY flagship stores. Some of them will be what we call authentic stores, and it’s a different retail concept. With authentic, what we’re going to do is sort of customize it to each neighborhood. So not every story is going to look exactly the same. The current retail idea is that a brand needs to be cookie cutter. So Starbucks in Seattle will be exactly like the same Starbucks in Rome, Italy. And we’re saying with authentic that with cannabis, that cookie cutter model doesn’t work. We have to respect the heritage of the mom and pop businesses that gave birth to this industry.