The Buyer is one of the most important and underappreciated jobs at a cannabis shop. The task seems pretty straightforward — place orders with vendors, stay within a budget, and keep the inventory levels at an appropriate level; however, a great Buyer is not only going to be able to get products in the door, but they are also going to have a profound influence on the culture and success of the store.
A Buyer needs to wear many hats if they are going to successfully navigate the unique obstacles found in the cannabis industry. Along with the necessary professional skills needed to run the department, a Buyer at a cannabis shop is expected to understand quality standards, market trends, and the unique operating procedures of the store in which they work.
Below, you will find an expanded view of some of the lesser talked about duties of a Buyer for a cannabis shop. I will discuss the challenges that face the Buyer at a cannabis shop and offer some insights as to how one might meet these challenges and create a positive experience for the staff and customers. So let’s get to it!
- Attack Of The Vendors
The first thing a Buyer needs to do is establish boundaries with vendors. Being bombarded by vendors is part of the job description; however, it is important to set up guidelines so to ensure vendors do not keep you from being able to do your job. If a sales rep wants to talk with you about their product, have them make an appointment. Do they want to drop off some samples and/or some pizza for the staff, have them make an appointment. If they show up without an appointment, give them your contact information and make them come back after they get one. The Buyer is the gatekeeper for products in the store. It takes a lot of organization and cross-functionality to do this job well. Giving people permission to interrupt you whenever they want is a recipe for disaster and frustration, so put systems in place that will help you stay organized.
- Understand Quality & Price Point
If you walk into any cannabis shop, you are going to have options at multiple price points. For example, if you are in the market for an eighth of flower, you might see a $20 eighth of Wedding Cake from one producer and a $60 eighth of Wedding Cake from a different producer. To the customer, the difference in price is a reflection of the quality of the product. To a cannabis shop, the difference in price is also a reflection of the acquisition price that was paid to get the product on the shelf.
As a Buyer, you are responsible for determining if a product lives up to the acquisition price. If you cannot determine what quality looks like in cannabis products, how are you going to know if the product is worth the acquisition price? You can’t … until it’s too late. There is nothing worse than having a bunch of products no one wants sitting around the shop. Cannabis products are perishable, so you end up having to sell them at an extreme discount to get them out the door to avoid a loss. Unfortunately, this approach also avoids a profit as well. The Buyer needs to understand what qualities they are looking for at each price point before they take a meeting with a sales rep.
- Utilize Budtenders
It is common knowledge in the cannabis industry that a product will sell if a Budtender likes it. Brands are extremely limited in how they can interact with the public through advertising. Shops carry hundreds, if not thousands of products, and the selection changes every day. Budtenders are expected to keep track of all of these products in their head and they’re limited in how many products they can show a customer. As you can imagine, most have their go-to’s at each price point when it comes to making a sale. At the end of the day, they are going to sell what they like and/or what they are familiar with, period. This is why vendors are so nice to the Budtenders.
As a Buyer, you should be in communication with your Budtenders. Taking the time to make sure that the staff is familiar with the product they are selling goes a long way when it comes to sales — especially the top-shelf products. When a new product is about to hit the sales floor, the staff should be given background on the product. This might include information about the terpene profile, the genetics of the flower, or the feeling that is often associated with the high. The trick is finding something that will make a product stand out and become memorable. The staff should be the expert on the products in the store.
Budtenders are also a great resource for when it comes to finding new vendors to bring into the store. It’s not realistic to think that any one person is going to be able to try everything the cannabis market has to offer, so a Buyer needs to keep their ears open. If the Budtenders are all excited about a producer, definitely take notice. Educate yourself on the product, buy some for the shop, and watch it fly off the shelf.
- Educate Staff & Monitor Samples
In many markets, vendors are allowed to give samples to a shop. These samples are intended to give the potential buyer a look at the merchandise so they can make an informed decision when it comes to purchasing. These samples are often given to the Budtenders, and this makes perfect sense, as Budtenders are the ones selling the products; however, these samples are often seen as a perk instead of an important part of the business.
As the resident expert on quality at the store, the Buyer should use samples as a way to educate the staff as well as a way to gain valuable insight into products. Every sample that goes out should include homework. In my shop, I created a worksheet that included a grading system and a series of questions that were designed to give me (and the rest of the sales staff) an idea of the experience of the product. These reviews were designed to educate Budtenders on quality and were valuable resources for negotiating with vendors. The employee did not get more samples until they returned their homework.
- Stay In Communication With Inventory
Inventory is often a job that gets overlooked in cannabis. In a highly regulated market that includes mostly perishable materials, I cannot stress how important it is to have a solid inventory crew. It’s not a glamorous job, but nothing goes smoothly without them. As a Buyer, you are going to be making all sorts of purchases. Sometimes you are buying for an average week, sometimes you are buying for a holiday, and sometimes you come across a great deal and decide to buy big and create a sale. Whatever the purchase may be, the Buyer needs to communicate the plan for the purchase with the inventory team so nothing gets forgotten about. Making sure that nothing in the store has a chance to degrade or expire is a great way to keep the supply chain running smoothly and the store profitable.