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Coronavirus and Dispensaries: How to Keep Employees and Customers Safe From COVID-19

18 March 2020  |  9 min read

Safety tips covid blog

At Flowhub, it is our mission to make safe, legal cannabis products accessible to everyone. Right now, with such uncertainty, it’s our collective responsibility to serve our communities with the products people need to stay healthy and calm.

So far, our data is showing that people are shopping, and many are stocking up on cannabis products. On Friday, 3/13/2020, rec sales across Flowhub customers increased 30% compared to the previous week and 38% compared to the average Friday in 2020.

On Tuesday, 3/17/2020, we saw a 63% increase in rec sales compared to the previous Tuesday, 3/10/2020. That number goes up to 85% compared to the average Tuesday in 2020. Tuesdays are typically low-performing days, but the 17th outperformed every pre-COVID-19 Saturday in 2020 and had an average order amount higher than on 420 2019!

On Tuesday, 3/17/2020, cannabis rec sales increased 85% compared to an average Tuesday.

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We have noticed a trend in increased order amounts, meaning people are buying more with each transaction. For example, in Colorado, the average recreational purchase amount was $69 on Saturday, 3/14/2020, compared to between $58-62 on the previous Saturdays.

This means fewer transactions, and probably few people in stores, but they are spending more than usual per visit resulting in greater overall sales. The key now is to continue to serve your customers, and make sure it’s done in a way that adheres to social distancing mandates.

In this article, we will share tips for keeping your employees and customers safe amid the world’s coronavirus pandemic, so that your cannabis business will not only survive during this tumultuous time, but will hopefully thrive.

How to keep your dispensary safe amid COVID-19 precautions

Social distancing tips

  • Use safe distancing — 3-6 feet — in all areas of your business.
  • Limit the number of customers on your sales floor to ensure there is enough room for proper distance.
  • Limit the number of customers in your waiting area.
  • Encourage customers to browse less. We don’t want customers hanging around. They should understand that right now.
  • If your sales staff walks the floor with your customers, ensure that they keep proper distance.
  • Adjust your store layout or dispensary design to accommodate the distance. This may mean moving a terminal to another area of the store temporarily.
  • Measure out a six foot distance within your dispensary by marking the floor with tape. This will give your patients/customers a visual of where they need to be to maintain safe distance. You can also implement this tactic outside to accommodate a waiting line.

General cleanliness tips

  • All staff should wear gloves at all times.
  • All staff should wash their hands regularly and avoid touching faces or germy surfaces (like door handles, etc.)
  • Have one budtender/cashier per terminal to limit multiple people touching the same machine, keyboard, printer, mouse, etc.
  • Offer hand sanitizer or wipes to customers upon entry. Encourage them to avoid touching common surfaces, like display cases, products/merchandise, and doors.
  • Clean all terminals and countertops between every customer.
  • Require customers and staff to wash their hands (or use sanitizer) after using the ATM machine and, of course, after handling cash.
  • Require staff and customers to stay home if coughing, sneezing, sniffling, or having a fever.

Order ahead and delivery tips

  • Expect order ahead to significantly increase as people are getting used to doing this for restaurants and groceries and many customers don’t want to enter a store right now.
  • Consider shifting your store layout to facilitate minimal human contact or lines for pick-up orders. Alternatively, consider scheduled pick-up so you can help pace this line.
  • Consider allowing customers to place orders via online order ahead tools like Dutchie, but also by calling, texting, and/or emailing, at least temporarily.
  • If you aren’t set up for order ahead (or delivery if your state allows it), consider modified versions. One idea is to have budtenders take orders at the customers’ car. You could then text them to come inside when their order is ready.
  • Take advantage of the mobile nature of the Nug to support your order ahead efforts, like verifying identity or creating a queue of customers waiting outside.
  • Disclaimer: Every state’s regulations differ. Make sure you understand whether you can take operations outside of your four walls. Similarly, not all states allow delivery. However, we are seeing states put temporary updates in place to allow businesses to function, like Michigan allowing curbside pickup at dispensaries.
  • Flowhub customers: If you want to offer Order Ahead and aren’t currently using the new Cashier experience, reach out to your customer success manager right away and we’ll get you upgraded.

Check in and check out tips

  • Avoid handling IDs. If you’re using the Nug, have the customer hold their ID a few feet away for the receptionist to scan.
  • If not using a Nug, have the customer place the ID on the counter where staff can confirm identity and manually enter the information without touching the ID. (Don’t forget to wipe down the counter every time this happens.)
  • Consider using guest check in to speed up the process. However, this won’t allow your regulars to earn loyalty points (if you’re using a loyalty program).

Customer communication tips

  • Use email, social media, and/or text to let customers know whether you are open, if you have modified hours, or if you have any other major news. Many stores are closing and customers may not know that you are open. Make sure you also update your website if you have one. Here is an example from Common Citizen in Michigan:
COVID-19 message from Common Citizen
Our friends at Common Citizen posted this message to social media.
  • You may want to consider doing different pick-up times for recreational versus medical to keep things moving smoothly. Customers will understand, just be sure they are aware.
  • Share with customers how you are responding to COVID-19, particularly in the areas of sanitation and safely serving vulnerable populations.
  • Consider offering discounts for using order ahead or delivery in an effort to keep customers out of stores. Here is an example from Buddy Boy in Colorado:
BuddyBoy dispensaries used text to communicate about COVID-19
BuddyBoy sent this text message to alert customers that they are open, and offer a special.
  • Post notices on your front door. Focus on primary information first, like hours or reduced availability.
  • Encourage customers to buy gift cards, maybe even offering to process gift card sales over the phone or by email. This will ensure more revenue even if people aren’t willing to come into your store. If you’re worried about revenue right now (especially if you were a store that closed), you could offer a discount, like a $100 gift card for $90, to help you financially during this closed period.

Purchase limits tips

  • In times of uncertainty, people may look to stock up, as we’re seeing with toilet paper. This may lead customers or patients to attempt to purchase more than they are allowed. Have budtenders watch daily limits extra closely right now.
  • Watch for customers using an ID that isn’t theirs.
  • Make sure the purchase limit tracker is enabled in your cannabis POS software.
  • Consider building pre-made, ready-to-go grab bags for customers that exactly equal your state’s daily purchase limit. You could have an edibles package, a pre-packed flower package, or an assortment “bug out bag”. Have fun with this concept; sometimes humor is the best option during tough times.

Waiting room tips

  • Remove chairs and seating temporarily since the surface could hold the virus.
  • Disinfect waiting room surfaces, primarily seating if you opt to keep, doors, the check in counter, etc.
  • Remove any complimentary water or tea stations temporarily.
  • Encourage customers to spread out at least 6 feet or wait in their car. You can text them when a budtender is ready.
  • If your waiting room is too small to facilitate 6 feet between customers, set up a line outside, or ask customers/patients to wait in their cars. (You may need to set up a text system to let them know when it’s their turn).

In-store/merchandise tips

  • Offer pre-packaged flower instead of selling deli style. To limit the spread of germs, we recommend not letting customers smell flower right now. Also, weighing flower slows the transaction time and extends the time customers are physically in store, which we want to minimize during this time.
  • If pre-packaging isn’t possible, ensure customers don’t touch jars and keep the lids on. Use signage to alert customers of your temporary “look but don’t smell/touch” policy.

Inventory tips

  • Things are going to be different right now. You’ll probably see a change in busy times of day, what product you’re selling, and what you’re not selling.
  • Keep a close eye on your reports. You can’t expect trends and norms will continue right now, but being informed is your best bet in being able to serve the community and keep your business successful. Start pulling sales, busy time of day, and inventory reports ASAP and get a handle on the new normal.
  • Look for products that you need to order now to keep your supply healthy. Getting products in could be a challenge, so plan ahead as much as possible.
  • There may be shortages in the near future. Watch your inventory closely, communicate to customers if things are changing, and look for new trends (maybe more edibles right now?). You may need to look to new suppliers in the short-term. Use your data to make these decisions.

Keep your staff and your patients healthy

You may be feeling the strain of COVID-19, or coronavirus, on your dispensary. But through crisis comes opportunity to better serve customers.

We are seeing unprecedented statistics right now, where dispensaries are selling at near-420 numbers. Now is your time to offer a necessary service to your community, even if that means changing the way you do business in the meantime.

If your dispensary is open, you have a responsibility to do your part in serving customers, but also in helping slow the spread of the virus. We hope these tips help you not only stay open, but thrive during this uncertain time.

If you are interested in learning how Flowhub cannabis retail platform can help you, please request a demo.

Amber erickson

Amber Erickson

Content Marketing Manager at Flowhub

As Content Marketing Manager at Flowhub, Amber's goal is to create helpful and engaging content to empower cannabis professionals to run a successful and compliant dispensary. Amber joined Flowhub to support the company's mission to help make cannabis accessible to everyone through innovative technology. Connect with Amber on LinkedIn.

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