It’s been almost two years since Covid-19 appeared in the U.S., slowing retail in many sectors and halting it altogether for some. Now, as the Omicron variant begins to spread — just in time for one of the biggest shopping months of the year — what are hemp retailers’ plans?
Will they close their shops? Check temperatures at the door? Are they more worried about Omicron than other coronavirus variants?
Information on Omicron is still emerging, and there are no solid answers to those questions. Still, a report from Hemp Industry Daily indicates that owners and executives at hemp shops will use strategies they’ve honed during the pandemic to approach the latest plot twist.
Two lessons in particular are standing out:
1. When little is certain, stay flexible. Evaluate and respond.
“We’re kind of on the edge here,” Vince Sanders, owner of Kansas-based CBD American Shaman, told Hemp Industry Daily. “Do we go back to full-blown lockdown, where we keep disinfecting things all the time and sterilizing everything and having somebody sit at the door and check everybody’s temperature and sign you in and out? […]
"We’re kind of sitting here right now saying, ‘Nationwide, is this a real threat? How do we accommodate it? Does it, God willing, fizzle out? Or what do we need to do?’ You know, we’ll do whatever it is we have to do.”
“We’re ‘wait and see.’ But I think if things were to escalate, we’d be in a good standing to make sure that we could adapt as the market requires to make sure that we stay ahead of it, as opposed to reacting. […] I think part of the due course of working in the cannabis industry is that you prepare for the unexpected.”
— Thomas Winstanley, vice president of marketing for Theory Wellness
Thomas Winstanley, vice president of marketing for Massachusetts-based Theory Wellness, shared similar thoughts.
“I don’t know that I would use the word ‘concerned,’ but I think we’re paying very close attention to it,” he told Hemp Industry Daily. “I hate to say that we’re almost, at this point, conditioned to navigate these things in a more routine way, where we keep a very open dialogue [and] we stay very, very close to any emerging details on it. […] I think we’re ‘wait and see.’ But I think if things were to escalate, we’d be in a good standing to make sure that we could adapt as the market requires to make sure that we stay ahead of it, as opposed to reacting. [...] I think part of the due course of working in the cannabis industry is that you prepare for the unexpected.”
2. Shops can continue to serve their communities virtually — including events
Georgia CBD retailer Lance Robertson was just about to open CBD City when the pandemic hit in March 2020, bringing lockdowns with it. Robertson had little choice but to take every aspect of the business online.
“It was scary, but it was also an opportunity,” Robertson told Hemp Industry Daily. “Because we had to stop everything, but we also saw our community really pivoting to holistic health and wellness.”
“We had to stop everything, but we also saw our community really pivoting to holistic health and wellness.”
— Lance Robertson, owner CBD City
CBD City built community with educational videos on YouTube, paired with online marketing. The brick-and-mortar shop opened in late summer 2021. Since then, Covid variants have continued to make the atmosphere for in-person shopping uncertain.
“Robertson isn’t waiting for another shutdown,” reported the staff of Hemp Industry Daily. “On Friday his store streamed its monthly yoga class online and cut in-person attendance in half. He’s trying to see the omicron variant as another opportunity.”
“We have seen an uptick in phone calls in reference to omicron,” Robertson said. “The community has been through this before and they’re taking control of their own health and wellness needs.”
Indeed, use of legal forms of cannabis went up during the pandemic, and quite possibly as a response to it, Nothing But Hemp reported in August. More research is needed to say for certain whether the pandemic and quarantine were the major driving factors, but data from a study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy suggested that the increases followed the issue of stay-at-home orders. The study noted that most states allowed cannabis retailers to remain open as essential services.