HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. offered a glimpse inside one of its coming cannabis stores Wednesday, showcasing a unique retail hybrid not likely found anywhere else in the world.
NSLC president and CEO Bret Mitchell took media on a tour of the cannabis store that’s inside the NSLC on Joseph Howe Drive in Halifax, saying Nova Scotia is the only jurisdiction that brings cannabis and alcohol sales under one roof.
“We have a very unique situation here in Nova Scotia and one that’s definitely going to be setting the stage for the world,” said Mitchell inside the new cannabis store, located in a renovated section of the liquor store.
“It hasn’t been done to my knowledge anywhere else in the world, and so it’s going to make it a very different retail environment than you’ll experience in any other jurisdiction.”
The entrance to the 130 square-metre rectangular-shaped store — which will be one of the largest in the province — is located in the back left corner of the liquor store beneath large letters that read “cannabis.”
Customers walk through an opening with frosted glass and around a corner into a brightly-lit space with light-coloured walls.
Behind the counter and spanning an entire wall are dozens of white boxes that will eventually contain types of cannabis. The available products will be displayed on TV screens and are divided into four distinct categories: relax, unwind, centre and enhanced.
Mitchell calls this a “discovery guide approach.”
“The four categories are how we will be grouping our assortments to hopefully help those who are new to the category have an ability to choose what they’re looking for when they buy cannabis,” said Mitchell.
For example, a sign on the wall explains that, “relax” products offer “relaxing and calming experiences that are generally more focused in the body than the mind.”
There are a number of tablets at wood grain countertops that will contain information to help customers choose a product. Mitchell said “hosts” will greet customers as they come in, firstly to determine if they’re legal age, and secondly to show them how to shop.
The cannabis will be provided in a sealed bag, and must be purchased before leaving the cannabis store boundaries.
Products and accessories will be displayed in cabinets on the walls. Customers will not be able to smell the product, except for at its Clyde Street store in downtown Halifax. NSLC says the products will have descriptions regarding their “nose.”
There are also a number of safety messages posted on signs throughout store, including warnings against smoking and driving.
Barriers that weave in front of the checkout counters will help control the expected lineups, but Mitchell said the hope is to eventually remove them once the initial rush dies down and customers become more familiar with the process. The store can comfortably accommodate roughly 60 people.
Mitchell conceded that the store’s opening would not come without growing pains.
“This is a new experience for us and it’s going to take time to figure out,” he said.
He said in order to have a cannabis store within the liquor store, they must abide by a number of federal regulations, including that it be totally separate from the liquor store. No one under the age of 19 is allowed in the cannabis section.
“There’s going to be some learning. Do people shop the same way? Do they come at the same time of day? How do they interact with staff? It’s going to be a very different experience,” he said, adding the average alcohol transaction is three minutes, whereas cannabis transactions will take up to 20 minutes.
Twelve cannabis stores will be opening inside NSLC locations on Oct. 17, said Mitchell. He said they’re anticipating up to 90 people an hour will use the cannabis store at the Joseph Howe Drive location once it opens.
The introduction of cannabis is expected to double that location’s retail sales, from $11.5 million a year to $22.5 million, said Mitchell.
Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press