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Redefining the Cannabis Retail Experience

An Interview with Scott Hurd, CEO of Westleaf Cannabis

— December 13, 2018 — Business
With the legalization of cannabis in Canada on October 17th, the industry is booming and understandably so. Westleaf is a pioneer of the cannabis wellness movement that seeks to redefine retail and bring the market to the highest possible standard. The company gives users access to “safe and reliable cannabis products,” all the while seeking to engage in conversation and inform the public about the benefits of the herb.

Recently, Westleaf announced its partnership with Canadian pharmaceutical company Tilray Inc. The opportunity allows for the cannabis brand's retail banner -- Prairie Records, to solidify its aggressive retail strategy that promises to redefine the market.

Trend Hunter spoke with Westleaf President and CEO Scott Hurd about the evolving industry, Westleaf’s strategy for engaging its consumer base and the overall cannabis retail landscape.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role and what led you to it?

As the President and CEO of Westleaf Cannabis Inc., I provide governance and direction across all verticals of the business. My focus is on creating a world-class business that combines a portfolio of sought-after brands, securing strategic agreements and partnerships, and guiding our aggressive retail strategy forward. In 2016, Taylor Ethans, CFO of Westleaf, and I were looking for investment opportunities for clients that wanted to enter the cannabis market ahead of legalization. Despite all of the hype and high expectations, it was challenging to find the right investment that met our strict parameters. So, we decided to create our own. As a result, Westleaf Cannabis Inc., a vertically integrated cannabis company, focused on innovative retail experiences to engage cannabis brands. Thus, premium cannabis production was born. Fast-forward to today and we are attempting to launch more than 30 retail locations in 2019 and 2020 in Canada.

How is Westleaf planning to enhance consumer experience around cannabis?

Westleaf will guide the customer experience and help influence consumer purchasing decisions with its highly differentiated and engaging store concept, Prairie Records. We are reinventing the cannabis experience by leveraging a tactile, musically themed, shopping journey through a record store-style concept, allowing consumers to engage and educate themselves on products. Both first-time users and cannabis connoisseurs will find a space that is inclusive and welcoming with curated playlists of both the consumable and auditory kind.

What value do you believe the partnership with Tilray would bring both to your business and to your consumer?

As a global leader in the cannabis industry, Tilray’s investment in Westleaf demonstrates its confidence in the Westleaf brand and leadership team, as well as our ability to capture market share and serve as a key player in the Canadian cannabis landscape. The strategic partnership will allow us to expand our operations and reinforces our strength in creating a unique and highly differentiated approach to cannabis retail.

How are you planning on evolving the cannabis retail landscape and what other products will you offer?

The retail concept for Prairie Records seeks to celebrate the relationship between music and cannabis. The concept of the store is truly distinct and taps into music -- an element that is deeply woven into every aspect of our lives, no matter who or where you are. We will provide our customers with high quality, safe and consistent cannabis products through an engaging in-store experience with knowledgeable and highly trained staff. I believe this makes us truly unique and differentiated.

In addition to Prairie Records cannabis, Westleaf offers access to a number of brands. There is ‘General Admission’ which targets the recreational adult market, ‘Loon’ which embraces health and wellness through calming strains that help aid health challenges and mental fatigue, as well as ‘Backstage’ which is a premium label for the recreational user and one that seeks to offer a more intimate experience. Finally, there is ‘Westleaf Cannabis’ — our signature brand of medicinal cannabis products for customers who are looking to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. These products were designed to help individuals alleviate pain or to moderate side effects from ongoing health conditions, allowing them to reap the rewards that come from using natural medicine.

What do you think the industry will look like in 10 years?

With Deloitte reporting that the total legal sales of cannabis in Canada are anticipated to yield more than $7 billion in total sales in 2019, it can be assumed that ten years from now, those numbers will be much larger. Given there are still negative connotations attached to cannabis use, our role as cannabis providers is to help break those stigmas and normalize the canna-culture in Canada and ultimately, around the world. As the industry becomes more mature and familiar, consumers will feel more inclined and comfortable purchasing products on a more frequent basis.

The challenges that come with strict industry regulations means cannabis companies must rise to the retail occasion when it comes to the in-store experience. By leveraging the fundamentals of retail which includes providing quality products, a welcoming environment, and interactive in-store elements, Westleaf has created a highly tactical and stimulating experience at Prairie Records. From shelves filled with ‘album’ covers that have product information such as its format, THC/CBD levels and consumption methods to tablet stations and knowledgeable frontline staff, Prairie Records will provide a 360-degree experience which covers every consumer touchpoint.

As a vertically integrated company, Westleaf has complete control over the cannabis value chain from ‘seed-to-shelf.’ This allows for experimentation and research which will result in consistently providing our customers with innovative products which meet their rapidly changing needs and purchasing habits. And with the legalization of vapes, edibles and cannabis-infused beverages around the corner, our product innovation capabilities will fulfill consumer demands and create strong brand affinity.

With all eyes on us, we need to prioritize informing, educating and innovating – helping to shatter stigmas and offer Canadians an unprecedented retail experience which will be recognized globally.