By Mario Toneguzzi
Fresh off of opening its first cannabis retail location in the heart of Toronto, Tokyo Smoke is looking to expand its operations across the country.
Recently, the company opened a new 6,500-square-foot outlet at Yonge and Dundas Square. It also has four dispensing stores in Manitoba - three in Winnipeg and one in Brandon.
“Tokyo Smoke is a cannabis brand that originated via coffee shops in Toronto and has grown into education-focused, design-oriented cannabis dispensaries,” said Lacey Norton, VP Retail for Tokyo Smoke, which is owned by Canopy Growth Corp.
“The coffee shops opened three years ago and were really a platform for us to educate people on what the future of cannabis could look like. Cannabis, as you know, is a highly-stigmatized product that has I think been perceived in a certain way for years and moving towards legalization the original founder of Tokyo Smoke had a vision that cannabis could be a product that had a meaningful place in people’s lives and associated it with coffee which is something that people consume on a regular basis.
“The coffee shops provided a safe and approachable environment for people to come in and learn about cannabis but also see beautifully-designed accessories, educational materials, apparel, etc. associated with the cannabis lifestyle which was unlike what anyone had experienced in the past.”
Five coffee shops are located in Toronto and one in Calgary.
“We have other locations sourced and secured (for retail stores) but won’t have visibility into whether or not they’ll be licenced until the Province of Ontario opens up licensing again,” said Norton.
“At this point, the dispensing stores are really our focus and continuing to build those out across the country. The cafes served as a really great opportunity for us to share our brand story before cannabis actually became a legal product. But ultimately at this stage, at this point in time, all of our efforts are focused on building out the brand via our dispensing stores across the country.”
Now, additional retail stores are in the plans.
“I’d say a good ballpark is anywhere - and it’s all contingent on licensing restrictions at this stage - from 10 to 20 additional locations throughout Canada over the next six to 12 months,” she said.
The stores are about 2,000 square feet depending on the real estate.
“We’re constantly sourcing locations that align with the overall purpose and objective of the brand as well as connect with our target audience. Not unlike other brands, we have a particular target audience that we’re seeking to connect with but also want to be approachable to a much broader audience as well,” said Norton.
“The whole purpose of Tokyo Smoke is to bring a level of design, intentional design, to cannabis in general and so we associate ourselves in locations that are aligned with the overall brand purpose.”
Since the legalization of cannabis in October, business has been very good.
“It’s been really mind-blowing so to speak. It’s been really exciting to see the brand become established in the market. We’re only in Manitoba and Ontario at this time so it’s still a relatively small footprint but sales continue to exceed expectations,” said Norton.
“We’ve also dealt with the supply constraints that everyone else in the industry has faced. We’re overcoming those issues as an industry. Despite being open for only six months, the industry is also only six months old. So everyone is learning as we go. We’re definitely excited for fall 2019 where new formats will be released into the market where we’ll see additional items added to our assortment from vape pens to edibles to topicals. There’s a whole wave of product that will be coming to market which is a focus for us right now in planning to integrate those products into our stores.”
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.