P.E.I. Cannabis is set to open a new retail location on Monday in Stratford.
This will be the fifth store opened by the provincial Crown corporation since the regulated sale and use of cannabis became legal in Canada in 2018.
But this store will offer something different, says Paul Crabbe, director of operations at the P.E.I. Cannabis Management Corporation: consultations with trained budtenders.
Those are employees who know a lot about the products being offered and can give people one-on-one advice.
"We want to invite customers that maybe have some questions," he said. "They can go off to the side and ask those," in an area that's almost like a bank-teller station, with a chair and lowered desk.
Including budtenders, the store will have nine full-time employees and a few workers who are part-time and casual, Crabbe said.
'The categories have expanded and there’s new opportunities,' says Paul Crabbe, director of operations at the P.E.I. Cannabis Management Corporation. (Alex MacIsaac/CBC)
Stratford's growing population made the suburban community outside of Charlottetown a natural choice for retail expansion, Crabbe said, adding that plans to develop the location started about two years ago.
Still, P.E.I. is behind other provinces when it comes to growing its number of pot shops.
Since legalization, "Nova Scotia has probably doubled the number of stores, and I think New Brunswick has more than doubled," Crabbe said.
He cited statistics showing that across Canada, the average is about one store per 11,000 people, while P.E.I. sits at one per 45,000, not counting the store in Stratford.
The profitability of pot
On another front, Crabbe said the cannabis agency's profit for 2023 was about $2.9 million, up about 12 per cent over 2022. P.E.I. Cannabis didn't make any money until 2020, when it reported a profit of $653,000.
The store in Charlottetown, which sometimes has a line stretching outside the door, is probably one of the busiest in Canada, Crabbe said, doing about $12 million in sales last year. Officials hope the new location in Stratford can absorb some of that traffic.
"It is extremely busy over there," Crabbe said. "It's probably a good thing that we can sort of spread some of that around."
New customers coming
A lot of what's on the store shelves now wasn't available when the first forms of marijuana were legalized in Canada. Crabbe said things like cannabis-infused edibles and drinks have attracted new customers as they came online.
Changing attitudes seem to also be playing a role in bringing in new shoppers.
"I think people are starting to feel a little more comfortable with the industry," he said. "We probably have people coming through the door that maybe didn't want to come through before."
The new store in Stratford is set to open Monday, Jan. 22, at 9 a.m.