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Pod 320 - Understanding the US expansion plans of Canada’s largest cannabis retailer

by Business of Cannabis
September 16th 2021

On this episode of BofC Live, we connect with Vahan Ajamian, Vice President, Capital Markets of High Tide Inc in advance of our Business of Cannabis: New York event, of which High Tide is a sponsor... More

Yeah. Welcome to BFC Live. The daily video and podcast series of business of cannabis BFC live highlights. The company's brands, people and trends driving the global cannabis sector. Find out all that we do at business of cannabis dot com. Coming up on B. Of C. Live, we connect with Verizon Jamie in. He is the vice president of capital markets for high tide. They are a partner of virus for our business of cannabis new york event but also has a deep background in the sector and we wanted to get his perspective on high tide and their expansion in the U. S. Wow. Yeah john thanks for being here. Hey jay. Thank you so much for having me. Well I'm glad we could find time because we're gonna see each other in new york because high tide is a partner of ours for our business of cannabis. New york event. But our history together goes back. Well it seems like a decade but I think it was less than that. Well I have a lot more gray hair since the first time we connected in my mind, I'm starting to, it's like dog years in cannabis right? So and it feels like a marathon and a sprint all wrapped up in dog years.

So it's nice to see you this way and we look forward to seeing in new york. So you are the VP of capital markets for high tide. Um And high tide obviously is a is the largest retail, you're gonna tell me in Canada. Um But also has a major presence in the US through e commerce. Tell us a little bit about the company. Sure. So I've known Roger grew over the founder and ceo for, for 56 years now, um, I joined the company late last year, kind of October of 2020. Um, so the company has 93 stores now across the country. Uh, brick and mortar leader in terms of revenue leader in terms of market size. Um, and we also have a big U. S. Business. So in the United States, because we are traded on the NASDAQ, we limit ourselves to ancillary market. So the cannabis accessories where we are, you know, number one, number two, and like it's three of the top five accessories, platforms in the world as well as CBD. We recently acquired um, a very successful CBD company called Fab CBD, Which generated about $11 million 4.2 in Alberta, that's considerable.

That's a, that's a big footprint of brick and mortar retail in in Canada um, e. Com in the States and, and it's, and every week or so, or maybe a couple of days we get new announcements from high tide. And this week we saw one white label, uh, sort of products that you're going to be used putting your own brand on through Heritage. Talk a little bit about that. Yeah. So we're partnering with heritage and and with lose to come out with our own white label program. So we've been considering what label for quite a while we want to be slow and methodical and make sure we didn't just jump in and to do it just for the sake of doing it. Um We're starting on the two point oh products because we think that's where there's more differentiation, there's a lot of branded flower out there. Um it's becoming more and more commoditized with the two point oh products where we can really differentiate ourselves well, you know, evaluate a lot of lps. Um and uh we found the two great ones to, you know, start dipping our toe in the water and white label um you know, should have be able to, you know, enhance margins for us, but it's not going to be in every situation where it's 50% of our of our sales.

Um So those are the first two, they should be launching, I called three or 4 months from now. Um And the other one where there's low hanging fruit is fab. Right? So Fab CBD, which is a very successful brand in the United States. Uh you know, the second obvious move is to bring it to Canada through again, a partnership with a licensed producer. Um we're kind of evaluating all that right now. Yeah, and actually that's going to be one of the conversation points I think in our business of cannabis new york event, is this uh well I don't even know what to call it, but there are there parallel tracks that are actually now not parallel, but are merging into a north american market. Um, regulations notwithstanding, but also sort of the brands are crossing borders. The retailers, I think we'll be crossing borders. Talk a little bit of how you're viewing that because obviously the regulations aren't actually there yet, but but the world is there and consumers are there. Yeah, so we're starting to see, I mean obviously Canada went fully legal a couple years ago now in the United States, it's basically 50 different markets, medical, recreational, and not quite there yet, depending on where you are. So, you know, what we're doing is we're running pretty much the same playbook.

We didn't Canada very successful in the United States. Right. And it's almost, you know, like the you know, amazon and walmart model, right? We got the brick and mortar here in Canada and we got the amazon style, it's all tech in the United States. Right? So what we did in Canada was the predecessor company that, uh, that raj Grove, our ceo started over 10 years ago now was focused on accessories. So we were the largest with 19 stores, the largest brick and mortar accessories company in Canada. And we were able to leverage those relationships leverage those customers and make uh, turn it into the number one largest retail for cannabis across the country. Right? And I think the same plan is happening in the United States, but of course, now that we're done a dozen years later, you don't necessarily want to be number one in brick and mortar in the United States for accessories. You want to be, you know, three of the top five, which we are online access is right. That's, you know, the world has obviously changed soap, but the playbook is pretty much the same. We continue to get do everything we can that's federally legal, continue to sell CBD, continue to sell accessories, grow that business.

We had about over 100 million site visits last year in our online platforms, we serve over 2.5 million customers that we have our database on. And we regularly to have to get touch points with these people use cannabis. Um, and uh, I think, you know, once we get the federal approval or the exchange approval, I suppose, whichever comes first, we'll be able to, you know, turn that on to selling cannabis. Uh, you know, legally, um, when once, once we're able to do so. Yeah, and it's going to be exciting to, to sort of have these conversations Exactly you said in new york, which is an emerging market there, right on the cusp, but also the sphere of influence of new york as it relates to New Jersey, to massachusetts, to Connecticut, to Vermont and actually the whole east coast and the country as a whole is tremendous, which I think will be part of the conversation as well. And like, sure, like new york is, it says a leading market United States and, and the good thing with us is we have customers everywhere right now, 50 states. So, you know, depending on how regulations are written, we'll probably have to get our own state license or maybe a partner with somebody who's through a JV who has a license there.

But you know, we can turn, you know, geographically through tech, you know, certain states on or off, depending on what our positioning is in that state. Um, and what the state's regulatory situation is so new york is obviously a huge market that, that we're focused on. Yeah, and I think a lot of people are of course it's just this like, uh, I'd rather, if I was a company, I'd rather be in position having rolled out, you know, 100 stores in Canada, having a big aecom presence in the States, like that seems to be a major competitive advantage. I want to see a sort of think about how you view it because like operating cannabis, retail stores dispensaries, it's not easy, right? Like there, it's really challenging and you got to be a great retailer, you have to understand what the consumers want to be able to hire and train the right people, but scaling that is really hard. Like talk a little about that experience and what you think that will lend itself to in new york or other markets as they develop for sure. It's your point being the largest in Canada, there's so much learning we've had to do in Canada is a difficult market, right? If you look at number of stores for population and zoning restrictions, advertising restrictions, et cetera.

In the United States. I mean, there's certain states that are much better markets in terms of the regulatory structure, the economics, the, you know, supply demand, uh, you know, dynamics that are happening there. Right? So I think, you know, one thing we look, we like to say is if we can make money in a place like Alberta, which is very, very saturated. Um, you know, we should be able to do much better in the United States and we can bring that learning down there where markets in certain states are, you know, frankly superior in terms of the setup. Um, and in terms of how we would do it again, we would leverage our, our accessories first. That would be kind of the lowest hanging fruit. And then we'd probably look to acquire, you know, maybe a small chain in a certain, you know, state or one or two, the states that we, that we find attractive and then learn the nuances of the U. S. Um, and that particular state versus Canada and then look to grow that. So we'll have both the brick and mortar and the online business. A lot of Canadian companies are talking about doing that. But you know, frankly a lot of them have entered into these, you know, option type agreements that hey, if and when something happens, we can do this.

If and when something happens we can do that. That's fine. We can do those two. But right now through accessories and CBD, We're generating over $50 million dollars a year in revenue profitably in the United States. So we're not just sitting on our hands. The U. S. Business is growing, not just waiting for the if and when there's, you know, regulatory change. Well, it's great to hear the playbook. Great to hear the strategy. Look forward to seeing in new york as always. And uh, I guess we'll be potentially on the same porter flight from Toronto on down Babylon. I appreciate the time we look forward to connect with you down there and thanks for your sponsorship. Thank you so much. Looking forward to it. That was behind Jamie in from high tide. If you like this program, please write interview us wherever you heard the show that helps support the work we do. We're able to do what we do because of our ongoing partners including alternate savings cannabis at work cannabis benchmarks. Can delta Gallagher headset and torque remains find out all that we do at business of cannabis dot com. You're, you're

Pod 320 - Understanding the US expansion plans of Canada’s largest cannabis retailer
Pod 320 - Understanding the US expansion plans of Canada’s largest cannabis retailer
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