By Mario Toneguzzi
Edmonton-based Fire & Flower aims to be a corporate retail store specializing in elevating Canadian cannabis products through experiential strategies and education-based programming.
And Trevor Fencott, the company’s CEO, said it plans to open 37 outlets in Alberta and expand throughout the country when legalization takes place in October.
“We currently have 37 applications with the AGLC (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission) for locations all across Alberta,” he said. “At a high level, our intent was to have roughly one third Edmonton, one third Calgary and then one third rest of province. That’s the rough intent. Now as a practical matter I think we are a little heavier at the moment in Edmonton because Edmonton was fairly quick out of the gate with providing some clarity in our ability to get locations lined up." The company received conditional approval for the 37 locations last week.
“Our goal is to be in every province where private retail is available. We’ve also been awarded a licence in Saskatchewan (Yorkton). So we are there as well and we plan to apply for British Columbia . . . Our high level objective is to get and maintain a 15 per cent market share where possible and it depends on each province.”
The cannabis retail industry is expected to be highly-competitive as it gets itself up and running beginning in October.
Fencott said the key differentiator for Fire & Flower is it started from scratch and it is designed from the ground up to be a licenced cannabis retailer.
The market, he said, includes vertically-integrated licenced producers who are producing cannabis but now will have a retail presence. Another group is retailers who are pivoting their business into the cannabis space as a new market. They have a lot of retail experience but they perhaps don’t have as much regulated cannabis experience.
“For us it’s a pretty unique position to be in from the get-go to have built a company from the ground up specifically to do this,” said Fencott.
“Our core mandate is socially responsible, education-driven retail so one of the approaches we’re taking is basically not a lot of people have a lot of experience with this product and so we want to take a very proactive education-driven approach. Some of our competitors will also do that as well but it’s really our focus. We’ve been hiring staff and training in this reality for months and months now.”
Recently, the company announced plans for its future stores which it said are intended to ensure customers across diverse demographics feel welcome, comfortable and are able to maintain a level of privacy should they so choose. The customer experience at Fire & Flower will focus both on education and knowledge of cannabis and cannabis-related products through highly-trained cannabis specialists in each location, it said.
“Our store design is modern, bright and will ensure the highest level of comfort for our customers, many of whom are purchasing cannabis for the first time, upon legalization,” said Fencott, adding that the design aims to elevate the retail experience in shopping centres and stand-alone retail stores.
The company said responsible retailing for Fire & Flower encompasses many facets including: prohibiting consumption from minors, promoting road safety and offering stringently tested, first-class strains. Leveraging the latest technology and innovations, each retail location will include a robust proprietary security protocol to ensure the highest standards of safety for surrounding communities. This protocol was developed with the assistance of Norman Inkster, a Fire & Flower board member, who served as the 18th Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and President of Interpol for two years.
“The initial concept came from my partner in the business, Harvey Shapiro who is our chairman, and the idea was seeing the licenced production system and the medical system that the federal government was going to push ahead . . . the assumption was that the licenced producers would be able to be in a good position to provide online adult-use retail because they had this developed infrastructure already. Highly compliant. Once it became clear the federal government was going to move ahead more quickly with legalization plans that’s kind of where the idea got started,” said Fencott.
“For us, in about November things kicked into sort of high gear because Alberta released its provincial regulations which were quite clear and Alberta was quite far ahead of the pack in terms of having a clear set of guidelines in an application process. The other provinces really hadn’t published a lot that was very clear so we decided that Alberta would be our beginning.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org