When it comes to engaging and acquiring customers, few instances within a brand’s evolution and growth are more significant than that of the first impression. The initial interaction between customer and brand, as brief as it might be, often sets the tone for the relationship that will be developed throughout the months and years that will follow. It’s a truism for any retailer, despite the category or vertical that they operate within. However, given the relative newness of the cannabis sector – one that’s bourgeoning, continuing to cultivate further growth – the importance for retailers competing in the space to convey the right message and vibe to customers in the communities they serve may just be greater. And, according to Jacob Bergsma, Marketing Manager at Garden City Cannabis Co., the role of a smart store design in supporting that message and vibe is critical, providing cannabis retailers with the opportunity to create differentiation for themselves within a near-saturated market.
“Ensuring a welcoming and appealing store interior is very important, especially in an industry with a pre-existing stigma like the cannabis industry,” he says. “This type of retail experience is new to all of us. We have to expect first time visitors to approach the store with some uncertainty. So, it’s important that our store design and interior aesthetics showcase a personality that makes customers feel welcome and comfortable to ask questions, whether they are coming in as first-timers or seasoned shoppers.”
Garden City Cannabis Co. operates three locations in the Niagara Region, with one in St. Catharines, another in Welland and a third that just recently opened in Fort Erie. In order to support its growth and meet its objectives, Bergsma and his team knew that the company needed help in developing and implementing a store design and aesthetics that could create an exceptional retail experience. To that end, it sought the help of Matrix Marketing – a leader in the design and manufacturing of merchandising and display systems with more than 30 years of experience working with retailers and brands with strategic solutions for the store environment designed to increase shopper engagement. The agency’s expertise, says Bergsma, is “first-class”. However, most importantly, he adds, Matrix’s understanding of both retail as well as the specifics and nuances inherent within the cannabis sector proved to be incredibly valuable.
“We’re purveyors of responsible cannabis culture in Niagara,” asserts Bergsma. “We’re hyper-focused on the cannabis needs of our community. And, as citizens of the region, we want our customers to know that this culture isn’t just a business. It’s something much more than that. It’s not the headshops that we all grew up reluctantly visiting. It’s community, personality, knowledge and customer service. We’re proud to take the step forward with the industry while paying respect to the sacrifice and hard work of the legacy market that got us here. The team at Matrix understand the message that we wanted to convey around this theme and really helped us amplify it for our customers.”
Differentiating from competitors
To execute the project, Matrix worked with Garden City Cannabis Co. to first understand the brand’s needs. After an extensive review of the location, the team at Matrix then went to work on developing the right fixture design that would meet those needs and create the most engaging store environment. After a 3D rendering and virtual store walk through was presented to Garden City Cannabis Co., the team at Matrix got to work on production and execution of the design.
The installation of the store design, which consists of a number of impressive features, was completed in less than a week. Large digital screens present interactive and colourful displays, And unique lighting fixtures, which are suspended from the ceiling by cables, illuminate the space, lending a coziness to it while also highlighting and bringing attention to the merchandise that’s on display beneath in custom millwork displays that include glass doors, shelving, custom lighting and category signage. In addition, the store’s secure storage room has also been equipped with gondola shelving, providing an elevated storage system with a significant amount of room to store product, facilitating a high functioning back of house. It’s a design explains Dave Sprunt, Senior Sales Director at Matrix Marketing, that the entire team worked tirelessly to achieve, and is one that he believes captures the essence of Garden City Cannabis Co.
“The aesthetics of a store is an incredibly important aspect that essentially dictates the consumer’s overall experience with the business,” he asserts. “The overall visual and physical cohesiveness of the space must allow visitors to both have a seamless engagement within it while also committing the brand to memory, increasing the chance of repeat visits. From a design standpoint, Fort Erie was a success in terms of visual consistency. We were able to carry over the visual aesthetic from the other locations in order to maintain a consistent theme and brand recognition while also introducing new elements that elevate the space and highlight merchandise. The final product is a modern, inviting and functional retail environment that garners compliments from patrons and other industry professionals.”
In addition to helping to create a modern and inviting environment to offer customers of the Garden City Cannabis brand, Bergsma points out the fact that the design has also assisted the cannabis company in honing its identity, enabling it to differentiate itself within a fiercely competitive sector.
“Matrix has been a great partner to work with. We started this collaborative journey with only the essentials of our visual branding. Working with Matrix, we were able to take our brand assets and develop that into an experience. From store to store, they have been able to assist us in making custom improvements to further showcase our brand personality. The stores are aesthetically pleasing, while maintaining functionality and efficiency. And, most importantly, through their extensive background in retail and strategic design, they helped us arrive at decisions that have ultimately guided us in finding our own personality and place in the market, creating a vibe that is recognizably Garden City Cannabis Co. Our competition is fruitful and ruthless. Without bold differentiators it would be nearly impossible to stand out.”
To learn more about the ways Matrix’s design, fixture and marketing services help retailers and brands stand out from their competitors and create an exceptional retail experience, visit matrixmarketing.com
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