Pot Shops Need Clean, Comfortable Designs to Break the Mould

With marijuana legalization slow-burning on the horizon, Canadian entrepreneurs are racing to lay hands on whatever part of the retail pie they can.

Retail design is part of this looming revised reality.

Pot stores, legit though they might be, are hitting the scene at a significant disadvantage. After all, their head-shop predecessors have established a sketchy reputation for purveyors of such dubious pleasures. These are the seedy, dark dens of iniquity—populated by sketchy characters and staffed by cut-from-the-same-cloth clerks—a mother hustles her child across the street to avoid.

Though there’s still lots of haze around what legalization will look like in this country, there’s no doubt that the looming legislation offers a fresh opportunity for those involved in this trade to reinvent themselves, and those in on the ground floor know it. This next generation of pot-dispensing retail outlets can set the bar high from the start and the retail sector’s buzzing with ideas on how to do it.

Among them:

  • Sidestep psychedelic posters and reggae music in pursuit of a more professional image. Nobody wants a store to tell them who they ought to be.
  • Don’t eschew the traditional head-shop look so fiercely that you end up like a clinical drug counter—that’s just as unappealing, particularly to the older population looking to replace pharmaceuticals and opioids with something natural.
  • Include a clean, cozy consultation area that, ideally, says consumer research conducted by Toronto-based interior design company Figure3, looks like a kitchen.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of featuring an assurance of safety in the design of the space. That means lots of glass and an open view in from the street.

In January, the first-ever business-only national trade show devoted to the marijuana retail and dispensary business will take place in Oregon. The “RAD Expo,” whose booths will be populated by retail design firms, fixture manufacturers and lighting companies, will look to offer pioneers of this retail arm some guidance.

Photo: Surterra Wellness, Tampa Florida. Design by figure3


CBSF Surterra Wellness

World Interior of the Year Finalists Announced

The spotlight at this year’s World Interior of the Year contest—the theme for which is “performance”—is on colour, acoustics and volume, and the impact these elements can have on a professional interior space.

The shortlist for this prestigious competition—featuring the efforts of practices in the States, Canada, Japan, China, Australia, Mexico, India and Europe—was announced a month ago, and it’s crowded with innovation. We just can’t get enough of these entries.

Among the highlights, find: a spectacular floating bar at the St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, a jade green spa in the basement of a Shanghai hotel, and the extraordinary new contemporary headquarters for Airbnb in Dublin, set inside a disused warehouse and designed from scratch.

Amsterdam studio UXUS is shortlisted in the retail category for the stunning shop it designed for the Herzog & de Meuron extension to the Tate Modern Gallery in London, heralded as Britain’s most important new cultural building in almost 20 years.

And a design studio in Shanghai called Neri&Hu converted a former missile factory in Beijing into a car repair garage with offices and an on-site café by way of an industrial-style metal staircase, mesh cages and painted brickwork.

The two World Interior of the Year Canadian contenders are: the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, in Montreal, in the Health and Education Category; and McCarthy Tetrault’s Vancouver office, in the Office category.

In all, 78 projects were shortlisted for this competition, a focal point of the prestigious World Festival of Interiors show, which takes place in Berlin in November.

There, the entries will compete in eight different categories: Bars and Restaurants; Civic, Culture and Transport; Creative Re-Use; Display; Health and Education; Hotels; Offices, Residential and Retail.

Last year’s World Interior of the Year winner was a clothing boutique in Hangzhou, China, that was remarkable for its strikingly monochromatic matte-black interior. China dominates again this year, with more than a third of the finalists based there, including 19 from the mainland, five from Hong Kong and four from Taiwan.

The overall World Interior of the Year winner for 2017 will be crowned on November 17.

OHLAB concept store MiamiUSA

Pop-Up Shops Get Digital Boost

Appear Here may be a pioneer in the field of short-term-rental retail space.

This smart new British app connects brands, entrepreneurs, retailers, designers and creative types with available space in some of the world’s most vibrant cities. Better yet, it all happens on line.

In all, Appear Here offers more than 10 million square feet of commercial space looking to be temporarily transformed into any number of retail reinventions.

The stated mission of this cool new marketplace that bloomed out of the pop-up-shop craze? “To create a world where anyone with an idea can find space to make it happen.”

Appear Here was hatched in London in 2012, when a 20-year-old, Ross Bailey, sought to capitalize on the popularity of the encroaching Diamond Jubilee. With a friend, he opened Rock & Rule in a recently vacated shop and sold limited-edition Queen-Elizabeth-inspired T-shirts and apparel for a few days.

Bailey was surprised at the number of inquiries he fielded during the short period his store was open about how he’d manage to score such a cool short-term rental space. Thus, the idea for Appear Here was born.

The startup quickly expanded into France and, most recently, into New York. It operates in three offices now: one each in London, Paris and NYC.

To date, Appear Here has listed more than 4,000 “exclusive spaces” for consideration by its short-term retail clients. Its clever marketplace has been used by more than 80,000 brands, including headliners like Nike, Loewe, Givenchy, Coca-Cola, Net-a-Porter and Kanye West. But it’s the independents who make up the bulk of the company’s clientele. These are the little guys who want to take their idea for a spin around the block without having to commit to anything long term or insanely expensive—the ones precisely for whom Appear Here was created.

In a recent IPO, Appear Here raised another US$12 million, bringing its total raised capital to US$21.4 million. It’ll use the proceeds to expand into other locations.

CBSF AppearHere

How to Launch a Pot Shop

That recreational marijuana is poised for legalization in this country (starting July 1, 2018) has been all the buzz for the past long while in Canada, as the government scrambles to clarify the particulars. Lots of folks are keen to capitalize on this flaming development, and the uncharted possibilities beckon with tremendous promise.

The only question is: how and where?

Given that the retail oversight of this sparking new merchandise channel has been left up to provincial and municipal governments to decide (and that those decisions are still unmade), and, here’s what would-be marijuana retailers have to work with.


Excluding the homegrown and mail-order options, the LCBO has emerged as the most likely channel for retail sale in Ontario, given the provincial agency’s experience with handling controlled substances. Still, the anti-LCBO stance argues that these vibrant self-service outlets are hardly transferable to the world of cannabis distribution.

If the publicly run provincial monopoly for alcohol distribution wins out, it will almost certainly have to establish new retail outlets for this unique product offering.


Another much-discussed conduit for pot sales is pharmacies. The Canadian Association for Pharmacy Distribution Management, which supplies drugs to pharmacies and hospitals, has declared itself a no-brainer on this front for its well-established system for marijuana distribution.

And, in October, Shoppers Drug Mart applied to be a licensed producer for the purposes of distributing medical marijuana.


Finally, there’s the option of small community storefront dispensaries, such as those selling pot—and attracting tourists—in Colorado. The Retail Council of Canada is said to be consulting with its members and the government on the stuff.

Critically, says Michael Gorenstein, CEO of cannabis firm Cronos Group, these new-style shops have got to be appealing places for folks to visit. “A lot of what drives cannabis tourism isn’t just legal access,” he’s said. “It’s the character in the dispensaries they’ve opened up. It’s a unique retail experience.”


Along whichever path the retail distribution system for cannabis emerges, there’s no doubt the stakes are high. There’s a blaze of money to be made in this field.

Pot Shop

The Slash of the Cash

Years ago, predictions of a paperless society fluttered about the place like so much confetti. Today, the subject of predicted demise is cash—and retailers should take note.

Last September, payment tech behemoth Moneris published a report that said cash will account for just 10 percent of all purchases in Canada by 2030, with the balance made up by credit, debit and mobile-facilitated technology.

There are many who would predict that this development is already upon us.

Vancouver-based Kit and Ace’s 60-plus North American, British and Australian active apparel stores—founded in 2014 by family members of Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson—are pioneers on this front, with its two Vancouver shops celebrated for being among Canada’s first to go cashless.

They join the ranks of airlines (most in-flight merchandise and food sales are done without any cash changing hands), parking meters (the green P app is going gangbusters) and a whack of quick-serve retailers (McDonald’s Canada launched self-serve kiosks in 1,400 stores in late 2014) who’ve seen the wisdom of accelerating technologies that facilitate contactless transactions.

And why not? Consumers love it because it’s convenient, it saves them trips to the ATM, and it reduces the time and effort of a retail transaction.

Retailers, meanwhile, are fans of the cashless concept because it delivers an efficiency to their operations like nothing else. Better still, studies have demonstrated that people actually buy more when they’re not paying cash (a much-cited Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend 12-18% more when using credit cards instead of cash, and McDonald’s has reported its average ticket is $7 when people use credit cards versus $4.50 for cash).

Finally, a cashless store doesn’t suffer the same risks of robbery and employee theft as one with stacks of bills fluttering about the place. And everybody’s wallets can get thinner, too.

CBSF Cashless Society

Rudeness in Retail Reigns

Everyone who’s ever devoted a piece of their lives to serving others across the retail divide—and there are almost two million Canadians working in the retail sector at any given time—has a story of fielding rudeness directed at them from across the store counter or restaurant table.

CBC Manitoba explored the phenomenon recently in its series, The Loss of Civility. In it, Cella Lao Rousseau told reporters of encountering “people who were very, very harsh, very mean” during the four years she spent working in retail.

“Two women came in and they made me cry on the floor.”

In her book, Revolutionizing Retail: Workers, Political Action, and Social Change, K. Coulter writes that “shoppers can believe they have power and superiority over retail workers. This can translate into rudeness and even abuse.”

She feels strongly that respect and civility need to become more integral to the working-in-retail experience. “Policies and laws that prevent harassment can and should not only be written, but enforced,” she opines.

“In my view, managers have a responsibility to actively shield staff from customer rudeness, by clearly establishing a commitment to a supportive working environment that does not automatically defer to customers and by directly intervening when and where needed.

“But some of what will improve retail jobs is dependent on people more broadly to show a little kindness.”

For a start, customers might consider shelving their cell phones during interactions in shops and restaurants. The practice is loudly condemned for being demeaning to the store employee, to say nothing of the delays it causes for other customers.

Still, an argument could be made that the rudeness stream flows in both directions.

A couple of years ago, the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business published a study that revealed that sales reps at high-end stores could actually boost sales by behaving rudely. Consumers who were treated poorly by snobby clerks, their research showed, demonstrated an enhanced interest in buying pricey goods.


CBSF Inc. and Bud Morris Take on EuroShop2017

Fresh back from my trip to Dusseldorf, Germany and the EuroShop Retail Trade Fair and what a great show it was. Arguably the biggest and best retail tradeshow in the world, this was my fourth visit and it never ceases to impress.

It can be an overwhelming experience and such a large show that a lot of time can be wasted without a plan, as I have learned over the years. This year I took along a teammate, Michael Benarroch, our Director of Sales and Customer Service to share in the experience. We had a few items to check off on our list:

  • Find a shelf management software
  • Find innovative products/ideas for our clients
  • Search out design innovation
  • Compare European shopper tracking software against what we are utilizing
  • Confirm that our products and services were comparable to leading European providers

I’m happy to say that we were very successful in our venture and checked off all of our boxes and then some. Our experience will afford us new and exciting partnerships with vendors in other parts of the world that will continue to make us even more valuable partners to our retail clients in North America and set us up for our next phase of growth.  Stay tuned for more coming from CBSF Inc. with all the new discoveries we made.

We’re looking forward to the next show in 2020 and the retail world can look forward to CBSF Inc. being a part of that show.


EuroShop Trade Fair 2017 Pepper and Intuitive Robots

Retail laps real estate as Vancouver’s top-performer

The flailing real estate market in Vancouver has seen this sector finally recede from its long-held peak post atop a stack of the city’s highest performers—and make room for retail to lurch into top spot.

According to a just-published Conference Board of Canada report, Vancouver’s economy will shrink in 2017, in large part because of a slowdown in the housing market. But in its wake, retail will emerge as this year’s top-performing economic sector in Vancouver.

Still, retail’s overtaking of real estate doesn’t mean the former wishes the latter ill. Quite the opposite, in fact. The industries of real estate and retail enjoy a symbiotic connection in which each thrives courtesy of the other. In doubt? Consider the vast spending power all the international squatters who have descended on Vancouver’s red-hot housing have visited upon the city.

Retailers in Vancouver, where more luxury and super cars are sold per capita than anywhere else in North America, are said to earn twice the money to Toronto retailers’ reputation for paying twice the rent.

“Vancouver is a bit of a superstar right now, it seems, as far as the performance of luxury retailers,” Retail Insider editor-in-chief Craig Patterson told Global News in January.

Retail, says the Conference Board of Canada report, will surface as Vancouver’s best-performing sector in 2017 “because of strong job gains in the region and the resulting high consumer confidence.”

Vancouver retail

Canadian E-Commerce Comes into Its Own

The e-commerce scene—long percolating in this country but never boiling—has burst into life in recent months.

So confirms eMarketer, in a new forecast that predicts that digital purchases could account for 10 percent of all retail sales in Canada in the next four years.

Just-tallied numbers indicate that e-commerce purchases (excluding travel and event tickets) in this country accounted for $34.04 billion in 2016. About 6.5% of that total was the result of e-commerce sales.

By 2020, the American market research company predicts, e-commerce sales will top $55.78 billion, and will represent a tenth of the total retail pie.

This revised reality has a couple of examples of improved technology to thank for its evolution, namely:

  • Brick-and-mortar retailers enhancing their offerings with more omnichannel shopping options;
  • Consumers increasingly using their mobile phones to shop.

With this news, Canada advances to the same e-commerce echelons of double-digit growth that its retail counterparts in the US and the UK have long enjoyed. And no wonder. Research firm BrandSpark’s just-published E-Commerce Shopper Study reports that 90 percent of Canadians shop online, most several times a month.

Meanwhile, another e-commerce-sparked release, this from Bloomberg, describes a scene of upped demand for industrial space to accommodate e-commerce operations. Pure Industrial Real Estate Trust, Canada’s largest multi-tenant industrial landlord, has predicted that e-commerce will account for half of the company’s warehouse portfolio in the next few years—a significant leap from the 30 percent it represents today. Clients of this massive Vancouver company, which owns about 21 million square feet of space across more than 170 North American properties, include Best Buy and FedEx.

CBSF e-commerce

A&F Updates Store Concept with Reimagined Interior

American mall-based retail giant Abercrombie & Fitch is giving its interior a makeover in an effort to encourage same in its financial status. The updated stores will look to shake free the brand’s longstanding dark, thumping hypersexual image (strolling shirtless models, anyone?) in favour of something more sleek, inclusive and personalized.

The first of the new stores, at the Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, Ohio, was designed by MJ Sagan Architecture.

Among the physical features of the 4,860-sq.-ft. standard bearer—the company’s first revised retail concept in 15 years—find the following:

  • Lighting will be warmer, brighter and more copious;
  • Music will be lighter and softer;
  • Internally circulated air will, as the press release described, smell of a “lighter, cleaner, gender-neutral fragrance;”
  • Interiors will favour marble and wood;
  • Fitting rooms will be creatively welcoming, included paired offerings where friends can try on clothes in connected rooms;
  • Well-staffed terminals will offer shoppers the opportunity to place online orders in store, and pick up merchandise they’ve pre-e-ordered;
  • Shoppers will have access to such “thoughtful amenities” as light and music controls and phone charging stations in their changerooms;
  • Stores will feature spaces for seasonal capsule collections;
  • Stores will offer fragrance “apothecaries.”

The revamped store in Ohio will open on February 17. It’s the first of seven stores that Abercrombie plans to build in the same style in 2017.


Abercrombie & Fitch