Selling Cannabis with an Immersive Recreational Experience

The cannabis retail experience is changing rapidly. Gone are the days of dimly lit pharmacies with tacky signs flashing. As retailers seek to differentiate, it is no longer about selling products. Instead, it’s increasingly about selling the complete consumer experience.

Planet 13 is the epitome of this new wave of retail, with cannabis as a destination.along with The world’s largest cannabis store With Las Vegas, Nevada, and now a second-largest store in Santa Ana, California, they’re looking to change the cannabis retail landscape.

In an interview, Planet 13 Holdings co-CEO Larry Scheffler discussed his vision to make cannabis retail a sharable experience. He reflects on how to move the cannabis industry in this new direction, including harnessing the power of social media and emphasizing the importance of location.

Planet 13 represents a new retail experience

When Scheffler and Planet 13’s other co-CEO, Bob Groesbeck, initially dabbled in cannabis, it began in a small 2,500-square-foot space near Raiders Stadium in Las Vegas.

In the first 10 months of operation, they made $18 million. Still, as Schaeffler judges, “Why do we have 43 competitors fighting for 2.3 million locals, while 55 million tourists come?”

From this perspective, it makes sense to move from simple retail locations to tourist attractions.

As longtime residents of Las Vegas, the entertainment business model came naturally to Scheffler and Groesbeck. In Schaeffler’s words, “All we know is tourists and entertaining tourists. They will come. They don’t even know how they want to be entertained. Your job is to find ways to please them.”

Thus, Planet 13 Las Vegas was born. Rather than budgeting for quick retail deals, this new retail model encourages customers to linger as long as possible.

The massive Las Vegas flagship store has a seemingly never-ending list of tech-driven entertainment, from a giant 3D projected visual experience to an LED interactive floor to a 13-foot robotic lotus flower controlled by guests.

As guests stroll through the expansive space, they can watch the production team make food in the Willy Wonka-style glass panel factory, or indulge in the on-site restaurant and bar. Soon, a pair of fighting robots will add comprehensiveness to the Planet 13 experience.

The latest Planet 13 mega complex, which recently opened in Orange County, California, is built on this highly interactive model. Amid the laid-back ocean energy of the California coast, this location features an 80-foot wave of digital display walls and smoked Volkswagen vans, among countless other social media photo ops.

Planet 13 is designed to immerse guests in all things cannabis as soon as they walk in the door.

Selling marijuana as a destination depends on location

Cannabis supermarkets need a super consumer base. For this model to work, location really is the foundation.

Las Vegas is a well-established entertainment destination that is a perfect fit for this cannabis retail model. But with the gaming corridor having strict regulations on cannabis, securing an adjoining strip location requires more ingenuity.

By stumbled upon a partition loophole, Scheffler and Grosbeek were awarded the gold medal. The team was given 112,000 square feet of space, backed by the famous Las Vegas Strip. It ticks all the boxes that make marijuana a tourist attraction: millions of visitors each year, high visibility, and a central location in an established recreation center.

The list is one that Planet 13 continues to pursue in its national expansion, with a second storefront now open in Orange County, California.

Scheffler and the Planet 13 team examined more than 100 different locations between San Jose and San Diego. They’ve almost completely abandoned California as nothing fits their strict must-have list. But suddenly, a 55,000-square-foot space appeared in Santa Ana.

The sprawling retail space checks all the right boxes for the entertainment destination model. It’s close to other major tourist attractions like Disneyland, has ample parking, and is adjacent to a six-lane highway for improved visibility.

Planet 13 just got their license in Chicago, Illinois, and now they have their sights set on major tourism centers like Florida.As Scheduler puts it, “If it’s big enough for a sports team, it’s usually big enough too.
For planet 13. “

Rely on social media to spread information

Selling cannabis in an immersive entertainment space like Planet 13 offers an unexpected opportunity: free advertising.

As many retailers are well aware, restrictions on any weed-related advertising are an uphill battle. It’s nearly impossible for Facebook, Instagram and Google to publicly advertise cannabis products and services. Traditional advertising strategies no longer work.

So, why not rely on the best marketing strategies available? Planet 13 is incorporating word-of-mouth marketing into their advertising strategy. By cramming as much social media value and shareable experiences into their two locations as possible, they encourage guests to capture and share their shopping experience.

“It’s our thought process,” Scheffler said, “to get people to advertise for us.” They’ve seen guests share, tag and spread Planet 13 messages. Scheffler saw firsthand how “they’re going to send it to 10 or 20 of their best friends, and the web just keeps popping up.”

The ability to cautiously circumvent current restrictions on cannabis advertising does not apply to any retailer. Word of mouth and social media sharing are only effective for photo-worthy experiences in spaces explicitly designed to make a visual impact, like places like Planet 13.

Marketing cannabis as a destination is just getting started

With plans to open a dozen or more recreational marijuana supermarkets across the country, Planet 13 is just getting started. While each major tourist center may only be able to accommodate a limited number of cannabis mega-complexes, smaller retailers can still ride the growing trend.

Sponsored cannabis-friendly hotels and lodgings, consumer lounges and 420 amusement parks are all likely to launch as marijuana legalization spreads. Planet 13 is the first in a new wave of retailers to market cannabis as a lasting consumer experience.

This article First appeared in the Fall 2021 issue. register here.

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