Cannabis Sales Surge Amid Coronavirus and Social Distancing

The Muckleshoot Tribe-owned cannabis retail outlet Joint Rivers opened in June 2018, boasting the largest sales floor in the state with 86 linear feet of cabinet space dedicated to flower alone. Since the coronavirus outbreak, Joint Rivers’ sales have skyrocketed.
If Joint Rivers is any indication, Tribally owned cannabis retailers are keeping pace with the national trend happening across the marijuana marketplace: business is booming. 

“We have definitely seen a dramatic increase in business. As soon as things started to happen with the coronavirus scare, sales increased. In the last 7-10 days, everyday is busier than the one before,” said Audria Jaggers, General Manager at Joint Rivers. 

“We’ve probably seen a 75 to 100 percent increase in traffic,” she added. 

Customers are making larger transactions and oftentimes buying the state limit. “We’re seeing ginormous average tickets. Our average ticket prices have almost tripled in the last three weeks. Business is skyrocketing.” 

Meanwhile, the Muckleshoot Tribe-owned cannabis retail outlet has taken extensive measures to protect its employees and customers:

  • All sales are completed online at JointRivers.com, and only one customer is allowed inside the facility at a time to pick up their orders.  
  • In addition to hourly cleaning, staff disinfect all surfaces after each transaction. All staff wear gloves and change them regularly. “After each customer we do a complete sweep of the door handles and anything that’s been touched,” Jaggers emphasized. 
  • Store hours have been reduced to accommodate lower employee availability. Given the extension of spring break by school districts across Washington State, students remain at home, and many Joint Rivers employees have children, Jaggers explained. 

“We have catered our shopping experience to reduce exposure,” Jaggers underscored. 

Jaggers also emphasized that, while some folks may think of cannabis as a novel product, “a lot of people depend on cannabis for their daily,” she said. “They use it for medicine and to feel good. We’re happy to be there to be that buffer between what’s going on in the outside world and helping them feel happy, peaceful and healthy at home.” 

In terms of what products they’re purchasing — well, it’s any and all available options, and in bulk. 

When Native Business spoke with multiple Washington State-based cannabis retailers in summer 2019, cannabis flower consistently ranked as the front-runner for sales across operators. As Jaggers previously told us: “Cannabis consumers love their flower. Concentrates and pre-rolls are in a close race for second, but flower always comes out on top.” But now, in the season of the coronavirus outbreak, all forms of cannabis are popular. Customers are purchasing their state limit — even when it comes to edibles. 

“We’ve got people coming in and stockpiling the state limit on edibles and beverages, which we hardly ever see. To reach a state limit on edibles, you have to buy a lot of products,” Jaggers said. 

Supply + Demand 

Jaggers is a veteran of the retail cannabis marketplace, so she knew how to guide her team’s decision-making regarding purchasing orders come the coronavirus pandemic. 

“You have to have that preparedness mindset — not only yourself but your entire team,” Jaggers said. She coached her inventory team to order plenty of stock, “because people are going to be buying their state limits.” And in the event Joint Rivers experienced a temporary closure and then reopened, “we definitely need to make sure that we’ve got enough.” 

Joint Rivers regularly purchases from Tribal-owned vendors — and Jaggers has been incredibly impressed with vendor professionalism amid a time of higher stress for most of the world. 

“Inventory hasn’t been a problem,” Jaggers said Wednesday night. “No vendors have fallen out or not wanted to deliver. They’re also taking extra steps to ensure that they’re providing a nice, safe product. We’ve been getting lots of messages from our vendors about the extra steps they’re taking within their facilities to ensure things are extra clean. Their crews are switching out gloves very often and wiping down all equipment they’re using. That’s pretty typical in those business arenas, but now they’re going above and beyond to make sure that all the products and their employees are absolutely safe. That’s nice that we’ve got that to stand behind as well.” 

Customer Response 

When Joint Rivers revised its business policies — requiring all orders be placed online, and insisting customers enter the facility one at a time — the team “was a bit apprehensive that people would be angry,” Jaggers said, “but we haven’t experienced that at all. People are very understanding and grateful that we are putting ourselves out there and working.” 

It’s actually been an incredibly rewarding experience for Jaggers and her staff. 

“I am grateful to see the customers and cannabis community coming together. This is a time when you see a lot of businesses and customers falling apart; there’s a division from one another. But our customers and the cannabis community are really banding together and leaning on one another for support,” Jaggers said. “Even though we can’t hug or shake hands, we’re all there for one another. It’s just been really nice, the overwhelming sense of love and appreciation that we’re getting from customers, and also that we’re able to reciprocate that through the work. It’s been really satisfying, and it makes working in such unprecedented and trying times a lot easier. The customers are really understanding and extremely grateful that we’re there for them.”

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