Smart training and retail expertise are now a must for cannabis success

As the industry grows despite COVID, Cannisquad's president says there's more pressure than ever on in-store experiences.


Many new cannabis retailers are finding out there’s more to the business than simply selling a good-times product. Consumers want more than just their wares. They want positive shopping experiences and knowledgeable staff to inform their purchase decisions – things newcomers to the retail game may not be experts in.

While several industries are struggling in Canada’s Covid-changed economy, cannabis remains remarkably resilient. Demand for legal products is on the rise, investment continues to grow and the major retail chains are still planning for expansion.

Yet there is tremendous pressure on the retail end of the cannabis business. As the novelty of weed’s legalization fades, customers are establishing the shopping habits that they will follow for years. Attracting, engaging and retaining customers has become a huge area of investment and simply offering a legal buzz doesn’t cut it anymore.

“In some provinces, we’ve seen retailers scale way too quickly,” says Neil Spivack, president of Cannisquad. “In other provinces, lotteries determined who got to open stores. Having a lucky ticket doesn’t necessarily translate to retail know-how.”

Spivack launched Cannisquad as a division of KSG (Knewsales Group) to leverage its 17 years of retail consulting and staffing expertise in the cannabis market. “There are retailers of all sizes struggling to provide strong experiences for cannabis shoppers. They haven’t trained their staff to be product experts, don’t value customer service and they don’t have merchandising know-how. They operate under the false assumption that simply selling cannabis is enough to turn a profit.”

As cannabis products diversify, Cannisquad regularly trains its “budtenders” so they remain experts in the field

Given Canadian’s growing appetite for marijuana, he understands why many entrepreneurs think this way. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians bought more than $201 million-worth of legal cannabis products in June, setting a new monthly sales record and putting the industry on track to easily cross the billion-dollar mark this year. (In the first 12 months of legal sales, the industry made more than $907 million overall, and while 2019’s busiest sales month fell just shy of the $150-million mark, even 2020’s slowest sales month passed that threshold.)

But the business faces new challenges because of that success. Producers, backed by deep-pocketed investors, got ahead of themselves and Canada now has more product inventoried than it can sell, which puts even more pressure on front-line sales to move units.

“Training is such an important investment,” Spivack says. “Our experience in other sectors has shown us that so much relies on that one-on-one interaction on the floor.”

Cannisquad offers a turn-key solution for cannabis retailers that provides staff, training and solutions for every element of front-line sales, using a bespoke e-learning system called Canni-learn.

“It’s not just about a smiling face when you walk in the door,” Spivack says. “Our training makes budtenders into product experts, compliance experts and top-grade salespeople. This leads to higher employee retention and better customer interactions. It takes so much pressure off our partnered business owners.”

As with other retail sectors, Cannisquad believes in ongoing training as well. While new employees receive several days of training when first brought onboard, they also get refresher training throughout the year that keeps them up to date on new products, regulations and scientific discoveries.

Cannisquad is currently partnered with retailers across Canada and the US, hiring, training and managing staff coast-to-coast.

Cannisquad connects Cannabis partners with audiences through customized experiences building brand loyalty and new customer acquisition.  It is a division of KSG, a leader in experiential, staffing, direct, retail and F2F marketing.