An effective retail design is critical for any retail business, including cannabis dispensaries. It was reported that in 2023, New Jersey collected roughly $675,000,000 in revenue from recreational cannabis sales. Although the cannabis retail industry is relatively new, the principles of retail store design that have been around for centuries remain the same for any brick-and-mortar cannabis shop opened today.

If you’re in the process of opening a cannabis dispensary or thinking of opening one, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding the design and layout of your store. In this article from the Shelving Depot, we’ll highlight five retail store design tips to utilize in 2024.

Create a Sense of Normalcy

You may have heard retail experts say that creating a different and unique shopping experience is the key to running a successful brick-and-mortar store in the 21st century. While this may be true for typical retail stores such as pharmacies and pet shops, it isn’t necessarily the way to go for your cannabis dispensary.

Many of your customers will be first-time buyers of cannabis products. Create a familiar shopping experience customers will recognize from other retail stores they have spent time in.

Our suggestion: Think about some of the retail stores you frequent. How do you feel when you walk in? Do you feel safe? Are the employees friendly? These are essential questions you need to ask yourself before opening your dispensary.

Believe it or not, your store fixtures and displays can create a sense of normalcy. Set up your shop with retail glass and wood shelving — fixtures many customers are used to seeing in retail stores.

Focus on Customer Service

Customer service is everything in retail, especially in cannabis dispensaries. You’ll want to focus on hiring staff who are knowledgeable about the industry and can provide friendly, helpful advice to customers.

Our suggestion: Have an associate greet customers as they walk in, encouraging them to ask questions and showing them around. This will ease customers unfamiliar with dispensaries and hopefully persuade them to stay in your store longer.

When hiring employees, consider passion. James Yagielo, CEO of Hempstaff, says, “Not all jobs in the cannabis industry are fun; many are very tedious, repetitious work, so having a passion for cannabis and its healing properties is important to most companies.”

You’ll also want to invest in the proper training of your employees. Go the extra mile and educate your staff on industry happenings, laws and regulations, and any information you think customers should know about. This will help increase trust between you and your customers and show them that your employees genuinely care about what they’re selling.

Educate Customers

Increasing your time with shoppers is important for creating a fantastic customer experience. One way to do this is by educating them on all things cannabis. When it comes to this industry, there’s a lot your customers may not know about, so be sure to provide them with resources for keeping up with news and events.

Our suggestion: First, look at resources such as Cannabis 101 or MJ Biz Daily to educate yourself and your employees. Second, focus on creating and facilitating discussions with your customers. Doing this will increase trust between you and your shoppers and help inform them about what product to buy.

Cross Merchandising

Cross-merchandising can increase sales in any retail store. However, when it comes to your cannabis dispensary, it’s important not to overdo it to the point that you’re confusing your customers.

Our suggestion: Cross merchandise only when necessary or when it makes sense. When it comes to cannabis, there’s a lot to consider when creating a purchase, so strategically place your product and follow the general rules of buyer psychology.

Another thing to consider is the visual merchandising of your products. Display items in a way that creates an emotional appeal to your customers.

According to Green Bits, “Cannabis dispensary managers have an advantage when it comes to color psychology: the main product is green. But the fact is that almost every dispensary overuses the color green, and as the market expands, it will become increasingly associated with cheap fast-food style marketing.”

Think about the feeling you want your customers to have as they enter your store, and remember: color can make a big difference in someone’s intent to buy.

Expand your Inventory

You’ll find the typical products in any dispensary, but the additional inventory you stock will set your shop apart.

Our suggestion: Stock your store with promotional products, books, games, and even gifts. Promotional products are a great way to increase brand awareness of your dispensary and create a sense of pride for customers who shop at your business.

Expanding inventory goes back to educating your customers. If customers want to learn more about the cannabis industry or the product’s benefits, they can purchase a book while spending time in your shop.

Where you put these items in your store is equally as important. Impulse buys are an ample opportunity to increase the bottom line, and installing fixtures such as end unit displays or a retail sales counter can encourage your customers to make last-minute purchases.

Think Layout & Flow

The layout of your store goes beyond the merchandise you sell. When planning the design and layout of your cannabis dispensary, you need to think about the journey your customers take that leads them to check out.

Your suggestion: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What’s the first thing they want to see when entering your shop? Is it a welcoming associate? Or do you bombard them with signs and displays? Remember that a decompression zone is vital for creating a great customer experience in any retail store.

A decompression zone is the 5-15 feet of space from the entrance of your store to the start of your promotional displays and products. This space ensures your customers have a seamless transition to shopping mode.

There’s much to consider when opening and operating your dispensary. Your store’s design, layout, and experience can make or break its success.

You shouldn’t tackle your store’s design on your own. Our store design specialists have over thirty years of experience planning effective retail store layouts for businesses in every industry. Many store fixtures in a typical convenience or liquor store can work for your dispensary.