Will immersive cannabis shops be a big draw in the post-COVID retail landscape?
According to Paolo Ferrari, who designed Canada’s ‘first immersive cannabis retail experience’, companies need to spatially embrace the consumers who do choose to shop offline.
In early 2020, Canada’s Retail Insider reported that a Vividata survey found Ontarians preferred to purchase cannabis online versus in store. In 2019, there were only 24 brick-and-mortar retailers in the province – a number disparate with other high-population areas like Alberta. Fast forward to today, and the cannabis retail scene is developing rapidly in the Ontarian capital, with 359 authorized shops now open in Toronto. The pandemic has undoubtedly contributed to this shift in accessibility – ‘After COVID, we’ll have stores on pretty much every block,’ local business owner Andrew Rhodes told the Toronto Star. Among one of the recent entrants to Toronto’s cannabis market is Alchemy, branded as ‘first immersive cannabis retail experience’.
Designed by Studio Paolo Ferrari, the Alchemy space is a rejection of ‘staid cannabis clichés’ and a simultaneous embrace of art, nature and technology. The goal behind the interior, in other words, is to make consumers feel as if they are visiting a contemporary design or fashion store. ‘The best retail environments are about celebrating the human experience and presenting highly considered, multi-sensory environments,’ thinks Ferrari, who calls the store something between a ‘laboratory and a temple’. ‘If a retailer earns the privilege of a consumer stepping out of their online platform and into a physical retail space, that space had better be astounding.’
Astounding it is, and certainly one worth stepping out for. Sleek white rooms are punctuated by vibrant merchandising displays and structures constructed from natural materials. In the arrival room, kaleidoscopic visuals are played on small digital screens embedded in the walls. The futurism continues: custom sniff jars present product descriptions on a screen as customers interact with them and a solid aluminium self-checkout desk glides through the space along a track. The theatre-like accessories room, a burst of bright tangerine orange and undulating forms, is inspired by David Lynch films. An Alchemy client’s user journey is culminated in the final room, which brings one back to Earth via a palette of terracotta and terrazzo and photographic displays of the plant powering Alchemy. 'Considerable time has been spent to delightfully surprise and reinvigorate the highly informed customer,' says Alchemy founder and CEO Richard Browne, 'while de-stigmatizing use, purchase, and wellness benefits for neophytes. Attention to every product and design detail is aimed at maximizing the sensory aspects of the retail experience.'
In our latest issue Frame 139, we explore how CBD stores are steering clear of stoner stereotypes. Get your copy here.