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10 design considerations for your cannabis retail store


July 17, 2020
By Christina Casile

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Proper lighting, accessibility and connectivity are some key design elements to incorporate into your cannabis retail store.

As Canadian regulators issue more cannabis retail licences, cannabis companies venturing into the retail space should put more thought into the look and feel of the store. Put on your designer hats and consider these 10 points when planning your retail store build.

Location. Location. Location.
These three words are the mantra of real estate professionals. And yes, your retail location is essential. Keep in mind that things you don’t see while walking through a prospective site could impact your success the most.

Regulations like local building codes and ordinances dictate the size, location and layout of your store. You must research local laws to ensure your building and its location are compliant with the codes.

“I’m calling security!”
The rules and regulations for maintaining the security of cannabis products often influence the design of a retail outlet, but it does not need to limit it. After you have a compliant plan for the ingress and egress of delivery vehicles, employees and customers, your imagination can run wild.

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Branding is more than your logo.
Translating your brand’s message through the design of your store is a challenging but significant feat. It creates a dynamic atmosphere where customers feel engaged and energized.

A brand is not just an identity. It is your company’s culture, exemplified by the space. Your store needs to do more than sell products. It should inspire customers to return by connecting them with the emotions and vibe that your brand conveys.

First impressions are lasting impressions.
The saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” is right on the money when considering the design of your cannabis retail store. The increasing acceptance of marijuana has diversified the demographics of your customer base. The design of your store needs to offer a positive environment for consumers ranging in age and backgrounds, so they feel comfortable in their exploration.

Accessible means reachable.
Due to various medical conditions, some of your customers may require wheelchairs or crutches. Canada’s federal and provincial accessibility regulations may dictate that your retail location must be accessible to people of all abilities, which entails building a ramp anywhere there are stairs. Even inside, your cannabis store should support an enhanced, accessible experience. Include counter levels for customers in wheelchairs and adequate space for maneuvering to reinforce accessibility within your retail store.

Decoding deliveries
It is your responsibility to ensure a secure environment for product delivery. I recommend an attached, pull-in garage or loading dock for shipments that will allow drivers to pull their vehicles completely into the facility and enable the external door to be closed and locked. The additional layer of security not only keeps your employees and business safe, but it also allows your vendors to feel more comfortable when delivering.

Give them a break
Your employees are your front-line staff; therefore, you will need to invest time to train them in safety protocols and emergency procedures. Don’t forget that they are humans too, and working in cannabis retail can be tiring like any other retail environment. Employees are typically standing on their feet all day, interacting with customers. If you want to keep your employees’ morale high, consider implementing a break room for them to take a moment for themselves.

Take a meeting
Many retail store owners forget to include a conference or consultation room when planning the layout of their facilities. While it is a retail location, you are providing much more than products to a consumer. To some of your customers, you are providing medicine. A private consultation space can be utilized for those seeking information on potentially sensitive topics such as cannabinoid therapy and application methods. You can also use this addition as a conference room for meetings with potential employees and vendors without bringing them inside the secure area of your facility.

Let there be light
Proper lighting is critical to product presentation and the atmosphere of your retail space. You cannot depend on harsh, fluorescent ceiling lights to sell your products. The use of track lighting and smaller lights that focus downward help bring out the color and texture of your products without producing a glare.

Retail therapy
Your product has value and should be displayed in a way that conveys that value. The goal is to encourage customers to keep browsing. Take a lesson from other upscale retailers, such as jewelry stores, opticians, and perfume boutiques. These displays are organized, layered and visually appealing. There are a lot of decisions that go into designing a successful cannabis retail store. Relying on the expertise of architects and interior designers who know the “ins and outs” of store design will help you get up and running more quickly and profitably.


Christina Casile is a Philadelphia-based interior designer with more than 20 years of experience. She is the owner of Design 710, which specializes in retail and production strategy, brand creation, and customer communications focused on the cannabis industry.