Ben Kaplan: Lots of retail cannabis locations are popping up all over Canada. How will Miss Jones differentiate?
Hanif Harji: I believe that our approach will be different. We look at cannabis as one part of our robust offering and are quite excited about our branded merchandise and the artist collaborations we have planned that will bring our brand to life outside of our retail stores. We are also committed to health and wellness and we showcase this in different ways throughout our stores. Our physical store design and customer experience is unique, and our hospitality background will have a positive impact on hiring practices, staff training, and our guest experience.
BK: How has COVID-19 impacted your openings and what sort of pivot have you made?
HH: We have developed a robust online presence with large-radius delivery parameters and are offering delivery within the hour. The full experience at Miss Jones is in-store however and with most of our upcoming locations located outside of Toronto (which are now too in lockdown), we are working with the cities to ensure that we are abiding by their respective municipal guidelines to ensure the utmost safety for our customers and staff.
BK: Given your background in hospitality, and how successful you've been in that, what can we expect from the Miss Jones stores?
HH: Our approach to retail cannabis is exactly the same as our approach to hospitality – it’s genuine, authentic and humble. A lot of thought and time has been dedicated to designing the entire consumer experience, from the physical space layout and design right down to the comprehensive training of our staff – we leave no detail untouched. We plan on connecting with our clients one experience at a time. Our belief is this will create an emotional bond that will ultimately lead to an affinity to the brand.
BK: Is what we're seeing now merely an appetizer to what the main course is going to be? In other words, what’s your grand vision for the stores?
HH: Ultimately, we want to be a leader in the marketplace, recognized and appreciated for our approach to cannabis and the cannabis shopping experience. Additionally, we will be executing unique brand partnerships with leaders in the health and wellness industry as well as building with a community of artists to collaborate on our branded merchandise.We truly are committed to engaging with our community and when COVID passes, we will focus on in-store experiences exclusive to Miss Jones.
BK: So that’s what’s up with you guys. Where do you see cannabis going in the new year?
HH: I see the cannabis industry as being similar to the alcohol industry, more or less. Cannabis will become a product people will be more comfortable with. It’s still a little tender for most at the moment, but our goal is to attract people who are canna-curious and create an experience for them that is comfortable, informative and cool because that’s what we’ve got – a big, new industry full of innovation that more and more people are making a part of their daily life.
I believe there will be growth in the cannabis market as more stores open and the genre becomes more mainstream – pricing is getting much better and legal cannabis is becoming competitive with the black market.
BK: Take a step backwards: who are the cannabis consumers and what do they want (that they aren't currently getting)?
HH: The first tranche of customers are early adopters and consumers who are already comfortable with cannabis. They want quality product that is well priced and has a good amount of THC. They are interested in the new products, strains, and the innovation of the industry and we will ensure we cater to their needs.
Secondly, we believe there is a fast-growing segment of consumers who are canna-curious. They are comfortable with the idea of the product and are willing to be open-minded to the category but are looking for more than just a place to buy it. We will ensure our offering, staff knowledge and in-store experience aligns with their needs.
Lastly, there are those who are still skeptical, but we are hoping over time they too will enter the canna-curious category. Our goal ultimately is to be seen as more than just a dispensary. Similar to how Shoppers Drug Mart is viewed as more than just a pharmacy. Our product offering and in-store experience will play a big role in galvanizing this position.
BK: How big a role does health & wellness play in your brand identity?
HH: Our growth strategy includes a focus on health and wellness — it plays a large role in the Miss Jones’ brand identity and we want to introduce more than just cannabis. We believe the CBD category has huge growth potential. Aside from high CBD flower and other consumables, our inventory includes many other products that are CBD infused. We understand that consumers are gradually becoming more informed about CBD and we are committed to delivering high-quality health and wellness cannabis products to them.
BK: What will the relationship be like between Miss Jones and the local community? (whenever the pandemic ends, of course)...
HH: We have plans to immerse ourselves within our local communities and build strong community-centric relationships with local BIAs, events and festivals and of course, we will take the time to understand what matters to each community and work hand in hand with them to achieve their goals.
BK: What about cannabis made you want to jump in?
HH: We felt there was a gap in the market.Most stores we visited had similar guest experiences and the store designs had a similar look and feel. We thought we could add more of an experiential element to the guest journey and grow the in-store offer beyond just cannabis, helping to shape a new collective mindset towards the industry.
BK: Does your nightlife and restaurant experience help?
HH: I think so, it definitely doesn’t hurt… Our approach to restaurants and nightlife has always been about creating authentic experiences. We consider everything – from bringing the best DJs, procuring the best ingredients and of course, finding the best talent. To us, Miss Jones is no different.
BK: What is your vision for the future of the industry? What do you see happening in Canada in 2021, and beyond?
HH: I’m optimistic about the future of the cannabis industry. It’s a very competitive playing field with a large opportunity for growth and expansion. I think that the product offerings will continue to grow like they have in the US market with the exploration of new cannabinoid products.This is definitely a new and exciting frontier.
BK: How will you ensure you're the best at what you do?
HH: I think it all starts with the brand and its core values. The name, design and consumer-facing iterations are meant to set a tone for guest expectations. We follow it up with thoughtful store design and a multi-platform product offering. We think outside the box for different ways to enhance the consumer journey. We hire happy people who are passionate about the products we carry and values we hold dearly. We spend countless hours curating the products we offer, the collaborations we pursue and the countless ways we want to make the world a better place.
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