Ben Kaplan: What first attracted you to the cannabis industry and how did you get your start?
Ryan Roebuck: I had just begun working with Dennis Bennie at XDL making early stage investments and through my former boss, Steve Isenberg, was introduced to the new MMPR framework and the ability to either fund or submit our own applications for medical cannabis licenses in Canada. Shortly thereafter, Pharmacan Capital was born which later changed its name to the Cronos Group. From that time we became very actively involved in the cannabis industry from an investment and advisory perspective and over the past decade have invested an incredible amount of capital and time. We saw the positive and negative of the industry since its legal inception in Canada.
BK: Wow, a real cannabis OG. What did you see in those early heady days and how has your perception changed as the industry matured?
RR: In the very early days of legal cannabis there were a lot of individuals in the grey or illicit market trying to move into the legal system. The space quickly became populated with bankers and investors, particularly so after Canada moved to legalize recreational cannabis. As the industry proliferated, we began to see US and international businesses and investors arrive on the scene. Much of this investment has encouraged companies to grow as quick and as big as possible without identifying who their consumer actually is. There was a lot of bad that came with the good as one should expect in any growing industry and there continues to be a divide between the sub-culture and the big money entering the space. As cannabis continues to mature, we believe it will begin to segment itself as any other CPG category and everyone within the value chain will have to identify who their target and core group of consumers are and how to create experiences for them. Although this has been evolving for a decade there is still a great deal of opportunities in the industry and it will only grow and mature further from here.
BK: What was your big take away from your experience which helped you to launch Edition?
RR: When launching Edition, we wanted to create cannabis experiences for our community which appreciated contemporary design, quality, and impeccable service. We saw people trying to build the Apple, Starbucks, Corner Store, of cannabis and that there was an opportunity to create a more elevated experience. We wanted to create something that stood apart from the pack and was a place where we would want to experience cannabis and would resonate all the other incredible retail experiences in our lives.
BK: I’ve been to your spot and I think it’s super cool. I think you succeeded on your mission.
RR: Edition was created from a very genuine perspective and we want to make sure we were creating an authentic experience for our community. We started by collaborating with StuidoAC, one of the most up and coming names in contemporary design, to create shockingly beautiful and different retail spaces which could stand beside some of the best retailers on the planet. We put up our own money to start Edition and did not seek outside capital. We thought it was important to walk the talk unlike many of the cannabis companies and entrepreneurs we had met over the prior decade.
BK: I can feel your pride in your work.
RR: It’s true. And at Edition, we also believe that it is important to give back and in our first month we have already teamed up with The Stop Community Food Centre to donate 5% of our sales over the holiday season to such an important cause and we would like to continue to give back as we grow and evolve as a business.
BK: How is that part of a cohesive whole? Explain to us what Edition is, and why it’s different from everything else on the market?
RR: Edition is elevating cannabis through HIGH design and creating unrivalled experiences. Cannabis to date has largely been built one for all and we believe that our community wants their cannabis journey to reflect the retail experiences which already in their day to day lives. People have tried to use fancy marble or wood or kitsch to attract consumers, but that is not elevated or high design. Our retail spaces are shockingly beautiful and are quickly becoming recognized from an architectural and design perspective from some of the world's leading publications on this matter.
BK: Why is that so important?
RR: We are breaking the stigma of what cannabis retail is supposed to be. Luxury does not mean white gloves and silver trays, today it means an unrivalled experience, impeccable customer service and high-quality products. Rather than carrying every cannabis product, we carefully curate what we believe are the best products in each category and an incredible selection of cannabis accessories, many of which are exclusive to Edition. We are collaborating with like-minded creatives on capsule collections of cannabis accessories to bridge the gap between HIGH design and cannabis and will continue to work with these people who share a like-minded community with us. We have already done this with Mr. Saturday and have many more to come.
BK: Is this how the retail market can be disrupted?
RR: Rather than building one-for-all or building as big and as quickly as possible, the market will be disrupted by LP’s, brands, and retailers producing products and experiences which target specific segments and communities. These new disruptors will be authentic, of quality, and resonate with their core audience. They will also do this at a fair price. At Edition, we are bridging the gap between HIGH design and cannabis and creating an elevated experience for our community. Consumers are highly educated today and those who will do well will continue to adapt and refine their messaging, product, and service offering to resonate with their core group.
BK: What are your short, medium and long-term plans for the brand?
RR: The short-term goal of Edition is to continue to build out our retail footprint, continue to collaborate with like-minded creatives on limited capsules, and to launch our branded cannabis products which we are very excited about. In the medium-term, there are a couple of key markets we have our eyes on in the US and will wait to see how the regulatory situation progresses. For the long-term, it is to have a presence whether physically or digitally in the key cosmopolitan markets of North America and potentially beyond. There are not many other cannabis retailers that have the aesthetic to fit in with some of the most important retail destinations in the world. We sought to create something which could stand beside a Kith or Off-White or Louis Vuitton and be equally as beautiful and not out of place. We think as the industry matures, having a digital and e-commerce presence are extremely important and we are focused on continuously creating new differentiating content.
BK: It’s a rough time to start something new. How has COVID changed up what you’re doing/what you’re trying to do?
RR: We have a long-term vision for Edition. While we have had to make adjustments in the interim for the safety of our staff, customers and mandated restrictions, we have not deterred from our goals. Edition is still focused on bringing HIGH design to cannabis and curating a selection of what we believe are the best cannabis products and accessories. We have not slowed down and will open up our second location in early 2021 and will continue on our path while continuing to adapt to the current situation related to COVID.
BK: Lastly, look into your crystal ball: what will the retail experience in Canada look like at the end of this year? (It certainly feels like there's lots of retailers popping up in Toronto, can that sustain? Who loses, who wins and, most importantly, what's important to cannabis users?)
RR: There are a lot of retailers opening, a lot consolidating, selling, or trying to sell, and there are a number calling it quits before turning their lights on. This rush which we saw or are seeing cannot sustain itself. The consumer will ultimately determine who the winners and losers are and we believe those who create a brand and experience which is backed up with a beautiful environment and impeccable service will be the winners. We also think that establishing a strong social and e-commerce presence is very important. Creating high quality content is something we are very focused on. Location and convenience are important but we believe it is the overall experience which customers value the most and will make one walk that extra block to be part of the community which resonates with them.
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