Cannabis in the Age of COVID-19: Click & Collect Purchasing

The worldwide COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic has rocked societies all over the globe, and in the wake of mandatory shutdowns, many businesses are struggling to adapt.

As we’ve written previously, cannabis dispensaries occupy an unusual place: While many have shut their doors in an effort to slow the spread of an unusually transmissible virus, they’re increasingly being designated “essential businesses” and permitted to operate under emergency measures. One of the ways they’re adapting is through the “click and collect” model.

 Click and Collect: Relaxing the Rules to Satisfy Customer Demand

Click and collect was first used to describe Canada’s unique retail cannabis structure. In most provinces, regional governments hold monopoly leases on online cannabis sales and, until recently, were responsible for order fulfillment via delivery.
But in many cases, delivery times were measured in days, not hours. Then, late last year, in a move that would have unusual and unforeseen relevance, the laws regulating such sales were amended to allow customers to pick up their orders at private-sector dispensaries instead, as reported by Financial Post.

In addition to bringing the customer experience more in line with what they might expect from retailers such as, the move paved the way for greatly increased flexibility in light of the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic.

For dispensaries that have adapted quickly to this new environment, it means a veritable flood of business. As we reported in mid-March, in the first days of the pandemic, several Canadian provinces reported record-breaking sales of cannabis. And while early indications are that these numbers are coasting back to more or less normal levels as a result of social distancing and self-quarantine, it’s clear that click and collect is here to stay.

For dispensaries in the United States, the question is: How quickly can you adapt to the Canadian model?

Click and Collect: Balancing Rapid Fulfillment with Public Health

Many dispensaries in the US already offer some form of click and collect. Typically, pre-paid orders are stored in a special secure area of the store. After ID verification, customers are allowed to pick up their orders and be on their way with a minimum of interaction.
Before the COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic, this was largely seen as a matter of convenience. Now, it’s a matter of public health as doctors, epidemiologists, and other healthcare providers urge people to limit their physical interactions.

We’ve written before about some of the steps dispensaries need to take in this new and uncertain environment; these include:

  • Taking Extra Precautions to Maintain a Clean and Sanitary Store: These include regular passes with disinfectant sprays and swabs, especially in high-touch areas such as doors, counters, pads and registers.
  • Monitoring Employee Health and Safety: Nitrile or latex gloves are a must; face masks for employees in high-interaction roles such as servicing curbside pickup (where this practice is legally permitted). Consider adding regular fever checks; any employee showing symptoms of COVID-19 / coronavirus infection such as excessive coughing, sneezing or fever should stay at home.
  • Limiting Interaction with Cash: Paper money is already a known vector for many rather nasty pathogens. If your staffing allows it, consider detailing one or two budtenders at a time to handle all the cash used for transactions. Consider issuing them a face mask, and be sure to provide customers the use of hand sanitizer—or the sink in the dispensary restroom—after handling cash.

It’s also essential to set up a secure area for customers to pick up their click and collect orders, such as an express pickup line. Is there an area in the dispensary that lends itself to the need for customers to have minimal physical interactions while maintaining the need for staff security? This might take the form of a separate, roped-off desk or collection point with separate bins or cubbies for waiting orders.

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In this uncertain environment, you can help put customers’ minds at ease by demonstrating your commitment to their safety and security. In addition to following store protocols for friendliness and professionalism, each individual order should be sterilized with a disinfectant spray or swab at pickup.

In short, this moment demands creativity, the ability to think on the fly, and resilience. Fortunately for dispensary operators, these qualities and more are already part of your toolkit.

Make sure you’re keeping your customers aware of your store offerings, whether through email, SMS, or both. And if you haven’t started advertising your efforts, call us to get started!