Four Ways to Keep Your Dispensary Safe Without Scaring Off Customers
During the Q&A session at a recent cannabis conference event, an audience member described her experience visiting a dispensary in Palm Springs. It felt daunting and uncomfortable, she said. There were several layers of obtrusive security, including multiple armed guards, and customers could only enter single file and one-at-a-time. You were buzzed into the entrance, waiting area, product room, and then upon exit. More than anything, she felt tense and as though she were doing something wrong.
There’s a fine line between security and customer comfort. In a predominantly cash-only business, protecting your staff, customers, and assets is paramount, but so is creating a positive customer experience. The good news is that you can have it both ways. Follow our recommendations from on how to keep your dispensary safe without scaring off customers:
Show That You’re Serious About Security
Dispensary-burglary is a primary safety concern for cannabis consumers. As dispensary owners, you can make your security presence known without it being in the customer’s face. Customers are there to shop, but they want protection, too. Be open about your security system by hiring security guards, posting visible signage, installing cameras at eye-level, and detailing your security protocols on your website.
Describe the Store Layout at Reception
Customers want to know what they’re walking into, so tell them. Whether they’re first-time or repeat customers, understanding the lay of the retail land can strengthen the customer journey. Train reception staff to provide customers with an overview of each part of the dispensary: explain the store layout and what they can expect to find in each space from the reception and waiting areas to the different sections of the shop. This is also a good time to note what security measures are in place. Remind customers that there is video surveillance and onsite security staff.
Ensure Your Security Staff is Customer-Friendly
Mountains of cash move in and out of dispensaries, and armed guards are often employed to stand watch and protect staff and customers. Security personnel carrying firearms can be intimidating. The last thing you want is for the first point of customer contact to obstruct the point of sale. Evan Hicks, Marketing Coordinator for Senseon Secure Access, a product of Accuride International, notes, “Because of marijuana’s history and, still, the stigma that exists in many communities, seeing a security guard can make customers feel skittish or even avoid coming in entirely…Many businesses opt for plain-clothes guards or guards with uniforms that mimic the rest of the in-store team.” Work with security to understand customer engagement, so they help create an inviting environment that also conveys to customers that safety is a top priority.
Make Your Space Visually Appealing
A dispensary that feels like a maximum security penitentiary, like the one described above, will not inspire loyal customers. The right design-build is critical and can make all the difference for customers to feel welcomed and relaxed. The Greenhouse in Morris, Illinois and Caliva in San Jose, California are great examples. A former restaurant remodeled into a dispensary, the Greenhouse features a reclaimed, 150-year-old bar that serves as the centerpiece of an open and comfortable space where visitors interact with budtenders and learn about the products. At Caliva (Business Insider’s Top Rated Dispensary, 2016), there is no bulletproof glass between customers and staff in the entrance, and the shop itself is designed with earthy tones and natural wood paneling.
The Bottom Line
Security weighs heavily on dispensary owners. They are tasked with meeting federal, state, and local security compliance requirements, while protecting all elements of their retail operations. Balancing safety and customer-engagement is challenging but can be achieved utilizing the best practices listed above.