By Mario Toneguzzi
Toronto-based POPCANN, the only tech-driven, prefabricated cannabis retail store, is poised for aggressive expansion across the country.
“Mike and I have been business partners now for 17 years in the marketing and experiential technology space,” said Neiman, who is the company’s CEO. “We own and operate an innovation company and a marketing technology company called Big Digital and through our operation of Big Digital we do lots of pop up and permanent activation and technology installations for advertising agencies and brands and retailers.
“Through all of our efforts with these different organizations we uncovered this very interesting and untapped opportunity within the cannabis space. And that was about a year ago when we first started to develop POPCANN as a solution for the cannabis industry . . . Our mandate is to ensure legal cannabis is made accessible to customers wherever they may be. Optimal sizes and layouts enable us to bring legal cannabis to northern communities, music festivals, seasonal towns and other non-traditional environments, and offer a truly unique retail experience.”
The company is applying for retail licences and in the next 12 months, it is expecting seven to 10 stores to be fully operational. Three locations are currently under development in Manitoba and should be operating by the end of summer.
“In the long-term, we think that there could be several hundred POPCANNs operational across North America,” said Neiman.
POPCANN’s are developed specifically for the cannabis industry and are compliant with the regulations in the markets in which they operate.
POPCANNs integrate the latest experiential and projection mapping technology.
“POPCANN is a solution to make legal cannabis much more accessible to Canadians,” said Neiman. “POPCANN was created as a responsive solution to be able to bring legal cannabis to these different markets very quickly.”
The retail stores range in size from 400 square feet up to about 800 square feet and the company is developing POPCANNs that are up to 2,000 square feet. The units are built from reclaimed shipping containers.
“The way we can do a 2,000-square-foot POPCANN is having multiple modular sections that get delivered in sections that can be assembled within a couple of days,” said Neiman.
Girgis, the company’s President, said it has created an immersive experience by deploying marketing technology in the shipping containers.
“When you walk into a POPCANN, the moment you walk in, you’re going to realize that it’s not like a regular store. Not just because the fact it’s a shipping container and it’s a little smaller. But we’re using projection technology to map visual communications right on the wall so you won’t see shelving, won’t see product. You will just see digital imagery and communications on the walls to create these immersive experiences,” said Girgis.
“You will have a wide screen right above the ordering counter that displays our feature products. You’ll have touchscreen technology if you want to peruse the products on your own and there’s also a WiFi network that you can jump onto the POPCANN network to peruse the products as well. But it’s really, truly, taking advantage of the latest in digital technology from a projection perspective. We’re using augmented reality so people can use their own phones to look at products based on markers that we have on our walls and on the screens. So really trying to create an innovative digital experience.”
Inside of every POPCANN is a vault to hold the product. The interior is custom built to be fully compliant with cannabis retail regulations.
POPCANN has also partnered with Storage Vault’s portable storage division to bring POPCANN to diverse regions.
“Our partnership with POPCANN is an excellent example of how very different businesses can team up in creative ways,” said Steven Scott, CEO of Storage Vault. “This partnership provides POPCANN with a national infrastructure, logistics and distribution platform to bring legal cannabis to Canadians from secure, yet accessible areas.”
Neiman said a unique element of POPCANN’s partnership with Storage Vault is that the company has the cranes, the trucking and the logistical infrastructure to support its needs as it starts to distribute the units to different destinations.
“One of the reasons POPCANN partnered with them was to leverage their existing infrastructure to enable us to be operating in places like Calgary and Edmonton where they have existing facilities already in place. We can leverage their logistical infrastructure to be much more responsive than we would as a startup,” he said.
Neiman said POPCANNs are perfect solutions for having retail stores at music festivals, concerts and multi-day events. The units are custom-engineered for these types of environments.
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.