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Westleaf featured on Calgary’s Business:
See the full article on the Financial Post
Adam Coates who has been spearheading the retail rollout as the company’s Chief Commercial Officer, said the online ecommerce has also been launched recently.
The two Saskatoon stores, both in premium locations, are planned to open in time to celebrate April 20, the day associated with the push to legalize cannabis in Canada.
“After the two stores in Saskatoon, we have an opportunity to open another store in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, which will happen this summer likely and then we’re building out storefronts all over Alberta and B.C. With where the AGLC (Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission) is at right now with not releasing any more licences, we’re busy building out the stores to meet regulation and security requirements and as soon as the AGLC will start issuing more licences we will be in a position to open more stores and enter Alberta,” said Coates.
“Same thing with B.C. We’re going through the different regulators – the B.C. government and the municipal level as well – to hopefully start building and opening stores in B.C. this year . . . We’re planning to open, in 2019, 25 stores and then plan to open as many as 50 stores by the end of 2020. Right now we’re focused on Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. and if there’s an opportunity in Ontario, once they start opening up more licence opportunities in Ontario, we plan to have a number of stores in Ontario as well under the Prairie Records brand.”
Westleaf says Prairie Records is focused exclusively on densely populated neighbourhoods, high traffic areas, and tourist destinations and retail stores will be situated in some of the most premium retail locations across the country.
The foundation of the retail concept is ingrained with a desire to create a unique cannabis purchasing experience through tactile in-store features and product offerings that celebrate the relationship between music and cannabis.
“Prairie Records is really the reinvention of the cannabis purchasing experience and what we’ve really done is married cannabis and music together. They’ve been best friends for a long time and we’ve used that as our theme throughout everything that we do from store design as well as the overall consumer purchasing experience,” said Coates.
“So what you’ll find when you walk into a Prairie Records is that it looks like a modern day record shop. However, the bit of the difference is that it’s a cannabis shop. So in a record shop you’d see records. We have records in shelves and racks of records that you would see in any record shop but instead of finding your next favourite band or artist what you’ll find is your next favourite brand or strain of cannabis.
“With this record cover concept, it allows us to create a more tactile and engaging consumer experience because right now based on regulations all product needs to be actually under lock and key. And the actual packaging is very restrictive in terms of lots of warning labels and only space for a very small brand element. So what we’ve done with the record covers is taken a lot of the information that you would want to see on the packaging traditionally and put that right on the record cover. We allow consumers to pick up records and explore and really kind of instill this sense of discovery.”
He said another unique store feature is how it organizes products on its record shelves by music type.
“We’ve categorized our store in three categories. One’s called Dreams, a classic Fleetwood Mac song. Walking on Sunshine and Just Dance by Lady Gaga. If you know nothing about cannabis but come into our store I think you should at least get a sense of the type of experience you can expect or the type of products that are in that category,” said Coates.
“And taking it one step further. In a record shop you can listen to music. Well our record shop is no different. However, instead you will listen to music but you’ll listen to the strain of a feature product. So on our top hits wall we have sensory jars that actually has the product inside so you look at it, smell it and the record cover where you can learn a little bit more about the actual product itself and the headphones you can put on where you can listen to a curated playlist that will give you a sense of the mood or the type of experience that you could expect. Really bringing in a lot of sensory in a really immersive experience is really what we’re about as well as providing a really wide range of a great selection of cannabis products.”
The vertically-integrated company also is building a purpose-built indoor cultivation facility in Battleford, Saskatchewan which will be operational by the end of September this year. It also has an extraction processing and manufacturing facility in Calgary which will be completed later this spring.
“Saskatoon and all of Saskatchewan, is proving to be one of the strongest cannabis retail markets in Canada as the sector continues to evolve and mature,” said Scott Hurd, President and CEO of Westleaf. “We have the opportunity to deal directly with licensed producers in stocking our shelves, we are able to sell online across the province through our e-commerce platform, and the ratio of stores to market size make Saskatoon an ideal location to operate cannabis retail.”
Recently, Westleaf announced it had entered into an exclusive partnership with cannabis leader Xabis to provide expertise to Westleaf’s Calgary cannabis extraction and production facility. The facility formerly known as Delta West, will be rebranded The Plant by Westleaf Labs. The extraction and production facility under construction in southeast Calgary is expected to produce cannabis derivative products and, after legalization of such products which is expected later this year, consumables, topicals and other cannabis infused products, subject to and in compliance with provincial and federal regulations.
Xabis is a Colorado-based cannabis processing company which provides turnkey operations for companies in the mid-stream of the cannabis industry.
“This partnership is another part of the execution on Westleaf’s strategy of becoming a significant vertically integrated player in the Canadian cannabis industry,” said Hurd. “We believe a diversified offering of derivative cannabis products will account for a major shift in consumer demand once legal. We are positioning to formulate unique, high quality derivative products and bring in the best minds in the industry to help leverage our expertise in building and running these types of facilities.”
Westleaf also recently announced that the Town of Banff has approved its development permit for a flagship retail location in the heart of Canada’s most visited national park. The location on Caribou Street just off famed Banff Avenue, will be developed as a flagship in the Prairie Records brand of cannabis stores.
“Premium retail locations are the cornerstone of our vertically integrated strategy and which we believe uniquely differentiates Westleaf by providing access to wholly owned distribution channels,” said Scott. “We have built our Prairie Records retail brand to be a superior retail experience and have focused on locations with high foot traffic in urban centres and resort destinations. There are very few locations in Canada that tick off as many boxes as the Banff location does. If you have ever been to the intersection of Banff Avenue and Caribou Street on a summer weekend, you will know exactly what we are talking about.”
The store will be in the basement of the historic King Edward Hotel which was built in 1904 and is the second oldest hotel in Banff.
Westleaf Inc (CVE:WL) CEO Scott Hurd provides an update on the company’s retail strategy and continued rollout in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Westleaf has closed its acquisition of Canndara Canada Inc, a pure play retailer. The deal complements Westleaf’s existing retail portfolio while helping the company scale quickly. The company has consolidated 100 percent interested in its R&D, extraction, processing, manufacturing, and fulfillment centre in Calgary. Westleaf recently announced a deal with Colorado-based extractor Xabis Inc. Xabis will provide extraction expertise to Westleaf’s Calgary facility, which will be rebranded as The Plant by Westleaf Labs. Hurd reveals the company will continue its retail rollout across Alberta and Saskatchewan through its Prairie Record stores.
James West: Scott Hurd joins me now. He’s the CEO of Westleaf Cannabis, trading on the TSX Venture under the symbol WL. Scott, welcome back.
Scott Hurd: Thanks, James.
James West: Scott, sounds like you’ve had a lot going on. Why don’t you give us a rundown of all that has transpired for Westleaf since we last chatted?
Scott Hurd: So, since going public in early January, we continue to execute and advance our vertically integrated strategy, with really a core focus on premium retail distribution. Notably during the quarter, we acquired a pure play cannabis retailer called Canndara, which provided us significant scale in high quality premium locations that are complementary to our existing portfolio. We secured options to purchase three additional cannabis retail locations in Saskatchewan; we announced one of our flagship locations in Banff, Alberta, which is a tourism mecca in Canada, sees over 4 million visitors a year. And we opened our first Prairie Records location in Saskatchewan, and we announced the opening of two more locations in Saskatoon prior to April 20th.
James West: Yeah, okay, so you’re really building out on the physical retail location model in a big way.
Scott Hurd: We’re pursuing a vertically integrated model, so we’re one of the very few companies that is owning and developing assets across the entire cannabis value chain, from cultivation, extraction, processing, and then right down to wholly owned retail. Notably during the quarter, we also consolidated 100 percent interest in our R&D, extraction, processing, extraction and fulfillment centre in Calgary, and we recently announced an exclusive Canadian partnership with a global leader in cannabis derivative product formulation and manufacturing, called Xabis, out of the US.
James West: Right.
Scott Hurd: This group has operated four supercritical CO2 extraction facilities. They’ve designed about a dozen. And they’ve formulated over 200 distinct cannabis-derivative based product skus. So we’re really leveraging that expertise to be ready with a diversified offering of high quality derivative products when that market opens up later this year in Canada.
James West: Yeah, great. And so, from where you sit, that seems to be happening according to schedule, and it will in fact roll out on October 17th? And if so, what does that all look like?
Scott Hurd: I mean, we’re preparing to be ready for October 17th. We don’t have a formal date yet from the federal government on when the full suite of derivative products will be available, but we’re excited to be offering different modalities of consumption to consumers beyond just the consumption of flower today, and we think that’ll be a large growth segment of the market, and we’re well positioned to serve it.
James West: Fascinating. Tell me about the Prairie Records thing – that sounds like almost social cannabis. Is it the kind of place where you can go listen to be a record you might be interested in as well, while you sample some cannabis products?
Scott Hurd: So our concept for cannabis retail is very unique and different, and I introduced that to you back in January. Our concept’s called Prairie Records, and what Prairie Records really is, is a reinvention of the cannabis purchasing experience that leverages the instinctual tie between recreational cannabis and music in a sophisticated yet approachable environment that we think will appeal to a wide variety of consumers.
Everyone has a relationship with music, and it’s through that relationship and Prairie Records that we think we can align and engage with consumers in ways our competitors can’t. So when you come into our stores, you’ll see a lot of the typical things you’d find in a cannabis retail shopping journey, meaning, the digital assets, the sales associates with iPads. But in our stores, you’ll actually find records, and these are not albums; they’re actually strains of cannabis and products, and they’re effectively a giant brand card. But if offers the consumer a tactile, educational and engaging shopping experience, but also serves as a really interesting medium to showcase brands and give them dimension.
So what we do is, we take all the brand elements that a producer would have wanted to put on their packaging but they can’t; we put it on a record in-store. It’s a really interesting way to give dimension to a brand in an otherwise very regulated and sterile shopping environment.
James West: That sounds very intriguing. I’m going to go on a road trip just to check that out this summer.
Scott Hurd: I don’t know what your plans are for 4/20, James, but we’d love to have you out and host you for a grand opening in Saskatoon.
James West: That sounds like that would be a riot. 4/20 – that’s April 20th, right?
Scott Hurd: Yeah.
James West: Yeah, I don’t know, maybe! That would be intriguing. I do have reason to be out on the west coast a couple times. All right, Scott, why don’t you tell me a little bit about this Xabis relationship that you have, because that sounds intriguing, as well.
Scott Hurd: So we’ve partnered with Xabis, which is really a global leader in cannabis product formulation and manufacturing. They operate four supercritical CO2 extraction facilities across the US, they’ve designed about a dozen facilities, and notably, they’ve manufactured over 200 distinct product skus. And we’re really leveraging that expertise to bring a high quality, diversified offering of derivative products to the market later this year.
James West: Very cool. All right, so then, what are the big – what are your big milestones coming up yet this year?
Scott Hurd: 2019 is really the year of execution and operationalizing our business. Our current plan has us opening upwards of 20 retail locations by the end of Q3 this year, as well as operationalizing our lab and our cultivation facility.
James West: Very cool. And do you guys have an ambition towards international playing, or are you just focused on Canada right now?
Scott Hurd: We’re really focused on executing domestically within Western Canada right now. We do have an in-house M&A team and we’re constantly evaluating new opportunities, but right now it’s really focused on execution.
James West: Very cool. All right, Scott, when are you in Toronto next? We’ll have to have you in the studio.
Scott Hurd: I should be out there next week; I’ll drop you a note and confirm my travel dates.
James West: Yeah, sounds good.
Scott Hurd: Would love to connect in person again.
James West: You bet. Scott, it was great to talk to you again. We’re going to leave it there for now; thanks for joining me today.
Scott Hurd: Thanks for your time.