Cannabis sales were good back in the old days, when medical dispensaries were the only game in town. But for savvy retailers and brands, the ringing of cash registers tends to increase from good to great when those shops switch from medical to recreational sales.
Traditional retailers depend upon a smattering of holidays or the month between Thanksgiving and New Year’s for their make-or-break sales. But in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, summer is high season for all-things-weed. With California’s first summer of legal weed for all adults nearly here, what’s on tap for retailers, brands and consumers?
Cannabis Sales Smoke During the High Season
Let’s consider Colorado, the state with the most mature history with recreational cannabis sales. When you examine a graph of recreational sales in Colorado since 2014, it’s wavy. Every year sales begin slowly and then bounce around, with a big spike on 4/20, until May. That’s when the curve begins trending upward steeply. July, August and September are far above the previous months. And then, sales begin sinking again, with small spikes here and there — like December — but nothing like summer’s inevitable rise.
Between January and April 2017, the state saw $478.4 million in sales, according to cannabis market research firm BDS Analytics. If we then consider the state’s four strongest months of sales, June through September, consumers opened their wallets to the tune of $550.4 million. The kicker: For the next four months, October 2017 through January 2018, sales fell back to $502 million. Summer stands out.
It’s not just a Colorado thing. In Oregon, sales hit $138.8 million during the four-month period of January through April 2017. For June through September, they rose to $196.4 million. And then, just like in Colorado, the four months from October of 2017 through January of 2018 saw sales drop to $168 million.
Magic in the Music
The parade of summer music festivals and concerts is just one reason for the season’s jump in cannabis sales. For several years, September was Colorado’s No. 1 month for sales. Centennial Staters in the industry often point toward the four-day Labor Day Weekend — and the annual series of Phish concerts in Denver during the holiday — for that month’s boost. The Friday-through-Sunday period of that holiday have been the busiest sales weekend in Colorado since 2014. Industry people, take note: there’s green gold in them thar California music festivals.
Visit California (Please!)
One clear reason for the summer sales spike is tourism. Colorado, for example, sees plenty of tourists in the winter (when sales deflate), who come to hit the slopes. But they represent a fairly small slice of international life: somewhat well-off, often with families in tow, and spending the day expending immense effort before tossing back a few beers and collapsing in a pricey condo.
But summer brings a different kind of tourist to Colorado, more akin to the heart of the passionate cannabis consumer. They are camping, hiking, mountain biking and, yes, going to music festivals in the mountains. California sees more potential pot enthusiasts as tourists year-round than Colorado, but summer remains the state’s busiest tourist season. From the beaches, mountains and lakes, to the cities and historic towns, nearly every corner of California sees more visitors during the summer. And those tourists are ready to check out weed.
Summer Crushes (But Especially Holiday Fridays)
One of the season’s biggest days is right around the corner — the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. In Colorado last year, sales on that Friday (May 26) reached $5.87 million. It wasn’t until the Friday of July 4 weekend (June 30) that Memorial Day sales were surpassed by a smidge — sales reached $6.2 million.
Not a single day in July beat May 26. But then two Fridays in late August tied May 26.
The biggest Friday of the year — and Fridays are always the biggest sales day of the week — was September 1, the Friday of Labor Day weekend. Shoppers dropped $7.2 million on weed products that day. So take note, People of Cannabis: Summer in general rocks, but the holidays that bracket it — Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend — are sales engines. And the holiday tucked into the middle, July 4 Weekend, is pretty much weed rock ’n’ roll, too.
Summer — You’re Soaking In It
Let’s hope our industry never cops the phrase “’Tis the season” to describe the summer. We can do better. But the season ’tis!
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