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Colorado cannabis retailer Native Roots has achieved many industry firsts. 

Native Roots was the first cannabis store in the state to open a drive-through window; the first to open a walk-up window; and the first to offer delivery of medical marijuana. 

Now the company is revamping the design of its stores to create a more open floor plan for its customers to browse the merchandise, said Denise De Nardi, chief sales officer.  Native Roots has 20 stores in Colorado and four in Canada operating under the Garden Variety brand.

Speer location

As customers walk through the door, they are greeted by a budtender who will guide their journey through the store and provide one-on-one consultation. Products are displayed by category — edibles, vapes, concentrates and flower — in different sections of the new stores. Budtenders build orders on the showroom floor before they proceed to the fulfillment center where customers pay for their products. 

Denise De Nardi
Denise De Nardi

“It’s an opportunity to really create an environment that speaks to the customer,” said, De Nardi, who jumped from the wellness industry to the cannabis industry after being approached by a recruiter. “It’s an opportunity to display our products in a unique way and sprinkle in the education component as well. It’s good for people who are familiar with cannabis as well as people who are new to it.”

When the pandemic ends, the new stores also will have a community table that will enable Native Roots to host education forums so its customers can learn about the benefits of cannabis and how to best incorporate the plant into their lives.

The pandemic has created a need for speed — getting customers in and out of the stores as quickly as possible. To that end, Native Roots has incorporated a  “fast bar” into the new design for people who know exactly what they want. Native Roots also has a policy of processing pre-orders within 14 seconds and texting the customer when they’re ready.

Products vary from store to store. The company looks at the demographics of who’s shopping in its stores to determine the best product mix for each location. It also gets feedback directly from its customers. 

“Some products sell better in the mountains than they do on the Front Range,” De Nardi said. “Understanding our customers is a critical component of retail success. We want to know how they shop and what they want. We keep an eye on trending products and listen to what budtenders are hearing.”

Much of that intelligence gathering rests on the budtenders, who are responsible for providing feedback to the company. De Nardi visits the stores to talk to managers and budtenders to determine what’s working and what isn’t. Weekly calls and quarterly meetings encourage store managers to voice what’s important to them. 

“It’s important for them to know where we’re heading and what we’re thinking,” De Nardi said. “Transparency is key.”

De Nardi said millennials account for a substantial portion of Native Roots’ customer base because many have only had exposure to purchasing marijuana through retail outlets. Baby boomers, on the other hand, have bought cannabis on the black market for years. Millennials are interested in learning more about the benefits of cannabis rather than just buying a product that gets them high.

The company’s strategy for growth is to expand its brick-and-mortar footprint both in Colorado and in other states where cannabis is legal. De Nardi anticipates adding a few more stores this year. 

De Nardi’s advice to newcomers in the industry?

“Be curious. Don’t be afraid to test and learn. If you fail along the way, you learn from that. It’s a young industry. Learn as much as you can. Build relationships in the industry — that’s really important because we grow together.”

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