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Consumer Trends: Analyzing Oregon’s Dynamic Markets

By Aaron G. Biros
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Oregon was the second state to legalize medical marijuana in 1998 behind California that introduced legislation measures two years earlier in 1996. In the past two decades, Oregon has grown its medical market, treating more patients and producing exponentially more cannabis. Since October 1st of 2015, Oregon’s recreational sales have been made legal, creating potential opportunities for dispensaries to target this emerging market.

In that first week of recreational sales alone, dispensaries in Oregon made over $11 million in revenue. That figure is more than double what Colorado made in its first week and significantly larger than Washington’s figures posted.

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The exterior storefront of PureGreen in Northeast Portland, Oregon

Matt Walstatter, president and founder of PureGreen, a dispensary located in Northeast Portland, Oregon, says that while recreational customers are limited to seven grams of flower per day (no concentrates or edibles yet), they have noticed an uptick in sales of certain strains.

“Up until October 1st of this year, our sales percentages have been very consistent with about 66% to 72% flower sales since we opened and around 20% concentrates and 10% edibles, with the remainder consisting of topicals and non-medicated products,” says Walstatter. “Now we have an influx of a new type of customer so we do around 80% of sales in flower since the introduction of recreational sales on October 1st.”

When analyzing the top-selling strains, Walstatter’s figures show an inclination of customers and patients to prefer high-THC strains when buying flower. Girl Scout Cookies, a very high THC, low CBD strain, consistently sells the most at over 2000 grams per month. “People that smoke flower generally want high-THC strains, while people that seek CBD overwhelmingly do not smoke as much and prefer ingesting edibles, tinctures, capsules or other products with low THC content,” adds Walstatter.

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The lobby at PureGreen

PureGreen keeps a select few high-CBD strains on their shelves, including Cannatonic, which is known for its approximate 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. “Out of twenty five strains on my shelves, I usually keep two or three high-CBD strains because they have their niche, even if they are less sought after, it is certainly worthwhile to carry them,” says Walstatter.

“Because Oregon has such a well established cannabis culture with less novice customers than other markets, our more popular strains are consistent over multiple months so we built a brand around knowledge and education,” Walstatter says. “Our budtenders usually come from a background involving the plant whether they were involved in cultivation, trimming or processing, and then they go through extensive training to be able to recommend certain strains for different ailments or preferences.”

Walstatter offered some tips for dispensary owners and employees at the Las Vegas Marijuana Business Conference in November where he sat on a panel with other industry experts called What Patients and Consumers Want: Strain Trends, Product Mix & CBD vs. THC. “Understanding your customer’s needs and their buying habits plus properly managing your inventory is the key to success,” says Walstatter. “We have a couple of exclusive growers that went through an extensive review process, they tend to rotate through different strains while we have some grower-specialists that grow only one strain very consistently.”

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Exterior view of PureGreen dispensary in Portland, Oregon

Walstatter prides himself in his team’s exceptional customer service. “People do business with people they know, like and trust, so authenticity is very important to us,” he adds. “Over delivering on value in the form of knowledge, expertise and service is crucial to growing your brand and business.” Having a high quality product mix, knowledgeable staff and inviting atmosphere are a few of the ingredients to running a successful dispensary.

“It can take up to six months or longer to bring a new strain from seed to sale, so if it is a popular strain, it is very important to have a backup grower,” Walstatter adds. He likens his dispensary to a farm-to-table restaurant where the menu is constantly changing: “This time of year, there are some greenhouse and outdoor crops that do well on the shelves but strains can go in and out of season.”

While edibles and concentrates are not yet available for recreational sales, state regulators are closely monitoring other state’s rules and progress to map out a timeline for their introduction. This would effectively create another new emerging market, opening up potential opportunities for dispensaries in Oregon to diversify.