When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the closure of non-essential businesses across Canada, it had implications for all sectors, including recreational cannabis retail franchises. One such franchise is Spiritleaf, which launched in 2017 and now has 46 locations and counting in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario.
Adapting to COVID-19
As each province developed its own economic strategy for reducing the spread of the virus, Spiritleaf franchises in different provinces had to adapt in different ways. For example, in British Columbia and Alberta, where the majority of Spiritleaf stores are located, cannabis was deemed an essential service and the stores remained open. In Saskatchewan and Ontario, however, Spiritleaf had to temporarily close its physical stores and move strictly to e-commerce, delivery, and curbside pick-up.
Despite these changes, Spiritleaf franchisees continued to find success. “Fortunately, the cannabis business is one of the few industries that saw increases during the last few months of the COVID-19 crisis and Spiritleaf was not faced with some of the financial challenges that many other franchises are experiencing,” notes Darren Bondar, Spiritleaf president and CEO.
Bondar says that like many companies, Spiritleaf has had to adapt its stores to meet the current regulations and provide the tools that franchisees require. These tools include cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, gloves, social distancing stickers, Plexi-glass barriers, floor decals, communication tips, and more.
Spiritleaf already had online tools in place, which have helped in promoting customer safety. “While we were already set up with online menus and the ability to Select & Collect, COVID-19 certainly brought this to the forefront and we have encouraged our customers to use the convenient service so they spend less time in stores,” explains Bondar.
With so much change taking place, Bondar says ongoing communication with franchisees has really been key for Spiritleaf. They also supported their franchise partners and their local communities with donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to their stores and the frontline workers in local communities.
A time of franchise opportunity
As the economy starts to open again, Bondar says it’s the perfect time to consider franchising. “In my view, there has never been a better time to get into business. With changes and downturns comes opportunity. The way people conduct business will be changed drastically in the short term and perhaps less so in the long term, but to be able to control your own destiny with the support of a reputable franchise system can certainly be an attractive option for many of the millions of Canadians who currently find themselves unemployed.”