As the threat posed by the coronavirus grew bigger, governments around the world issued lockdown orders and instructed all but the most essential businesses to close down. In the days and weeks preceding the stay at home orders, legal marijuana saw a spike in sales as people stocked up for what they thought would be a long period of self-isolation.
However, several provinces in Canada deemed the marijuana industry essential, giving consumers constant access to cannabis during the lockdown. According to cannabis company executives, the COVID-19 boom in cannabis sales is dissipating, and consumers have slowed down their purchasing frenzy.
“There was a kind of pantry-loading in late March when there was a concern that maybe the supply chain would be closing down and whether cannabis as an industry would be deemed essential,” says Michael Singer, Interim Chief Executive of cannabis company Aurora Cannabis Inc.
After the industry was deemed an essential service in several provinces and sales continued even despite the lockdown, he says, things went back down to pre-pandemic levels in April.
“The behaviors were very similar to before that pantry-loading process at the end of March.” During the Edmonton-based company’s third quarter, which includes the first few weeks Canadians spent in self-isolation and ended on March 31, Aurora Cannabis Inc. sold 28,073 pounds of marijuana. This was an increase of 39% from the quarter before.
The spike in sales in March and April wasn’t limited to just Aurora Cannabis Inc. According to provincial cannabis distributor Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS), its online orders tripled in mid-March as the coronavirus outbreak grew more serious. Prior to March 9, the company received 2,500 to 3,500 orders and as people adopted physical distancing and self-isolation measures, orders doubled to 5,000 and in one particular week, to 13,000 orders.
“While it is likely there was some stockpiling, orders have maintained at the 5,000 plus orders per day level; still much higher than before COVID-19. Many products, including edibles and seeds, continue to sell quickly,” says Daffyd Roderick, the OCS’s director of communications.
Due to the increase in orders, cannabis distributors in several provinces including Ontario and Alberta have warned of delays in deliveries. The OCS had to expand its staff and courier service to accommodate the increased demand and Delta 9 Cannabis, a Winnipeg-based cannabis chain, hired 76 new employees. According to co-founder and CEO John Arbuthnot, that’s a roughly 30% increase in his workforce.
Although foot traffic at his stores is still high and cart sizes have increased, there has been a change in consumer attitude, he says.
“Certainly we are seeing that the sentiment from customers in the store has shifted from, ‘Oh my goodness, I need to make a last large purchase,’ to more of just back to business as usual. But it seems, for us, that the uptick in business has been continuing.”
Could this return to normal purchasing behavior signal what may happen in the U.S. cannabis markets in the coming weeks? It would be enlightening to hear what sector players like Champignon Brands Inc. (CSE: SHRM) (OTCQB: SHRMF) (FWB: 496) have to say about these buyer trends.
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