A Guide to Shelving for Cannabis Dispensaries: Front of the Shop

Posted by Robert Walthall on Tue, May, 14, 2019 @ 09:55 AM

Even though the medical and legal landscape is changing with astonishing speed, there are still plenty of challenges for cannabis dispensaries. With our decades’ worth of combined experience in pharmacy design, retail consulting, workflow, and shelving installation, Shelving Design Systems has plenty of insight to offer. Today, let’s take a look at the front end of your dispensary.

Aligning Your Front End and Back End

Let’s begin with a quick recap of our last article, since part of running a successful dispensary relies on harmonizing your back-of-shop and front-of-shop operations. You’ll find some overlap here, since some concerns (like security and compliance) encompass the whole of your business.

  • Compliance is as necessary as it is often complex, with a patchwork of state laws jostling with Federal-level policy that’s a sort of laissez-faire approach to a series of laws that are still severe in their scope.
  • Security is important because your product is expensive, and protecting your investment is something that ought not to be left to chance. This is especially true since you are, in all likelihood, running a cash-only business.
  • Storage is vital for product quality, and if you have product displayed in client-facing areas, you’ll need to ensure proper conditions to preserve your product, keeping it attractive, safe, and secure in equal measure.

Account for those hurdles and you’ll still need to pay close attention to your workflow, inventory management, and a host of other issues, all while finding a store design for your front end that reinforces your business goals and patient outcomes. With so much to keep in mind, operating a dispensary is not for the faint of heart — and there’s still more to consider.

Product Diversity

Even discounting recreational use, there’s a diverse and growing range of products derived from cannabis. The most popular of these, of course, is CBD. CBD (cannabidiol) takes a number of forms, from oils and tinctures to gummies. It's found use not only for humans, but even to help with our furry friends’ medical issues, including anxiety and behavioral problems. Because it’s legal over-the-counter, it’s a growing presence in national chains like CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Whole Foods… and a necessary part of the product mix for dispensaries wishing to diversify their product mix.

Visual Merchandising

Amid all of your other concerns, customer service and customer loyalty are still top-of-mind concerns. While we’ll go more into depth on the “why” of that momentarily, for now it’s worth mentioning that your visual merchandising plays a key part of your customers’ experience, and your employees’ safety and well-being as well.

Just as there are rules and regulations governing medical cannabis, its marketing — extending, in some states, to how it’s displayed in public-facing areas — is also tightly prescribed in some places. We can help you to create a sales floor that is both attractive and compliant.

Some Thoughts on the Dispensary Monopoly

With the sole exception of Epidiolex, which received FDA approval and Schedule V classification in 2018, pharmacies have avoided the prescription cannabis segment. The reason is simple; unless a ruling like Conant v Walters is handed down that covers pharmacies, pharmacists stand to lose their licenses and face civil and criminal penalties if they’re found in breach of the stricter federal regulations, regardless of state and local laws. Even here, however, there are exceptions, since some states (like Connecticut, New York, and Minnesota) require a pharmacist onsite at dispensaries.

In most cases, however, the current legal framework has resulted in dispensaries having an incontestable monopoly on medical marijuana. However, as our pharmacy clients can all too readily attest, laws and regulations can change seemingly overnight, so it’s best not to get too comfortable with the current state of affairs. As we alluded to above, it’s a good idea for dispensaries to take a cue from their counterparts at independent pharmacies, and to position as community and educational resources — the better to weather the changing market when the day finally comes that dispensaries must go toe-to-toe with neighborhood and chain pharmacies.

The question, then, is how to position your dispensary in a way that complies with current laws while retaining the flexibility to respond to the challenges and opportunities yet to come. While we can’t offer legal advice, when it comes to offering design expertise culled from years’ worth of experience, Shelving Design Systems is better able than most to help you get the most out of each square foot of your dispensary. If you’re facing challenges with your front of shop layout and workflow, get in touch!

Topics: retail shelving layout, pharmacy display, Workflows