The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation opened the doors of one of its cannabis sales locations to media on Wednesday, offering a look at the retail shop inside the NSLC’s Joseph Howe Drive outlet in Halifax.
The NSLC will be the exclusive retailer handling legal recreational cannabis sales in Nova Scotia. Stores will be open for business on Oct. 17 when it becomes legal across Canada.
NSLC president and CEO Bret Mitchell conducted the tour.
“The opportunity to do something as exciting like this in retail doesn’t come along very often in a person’s lifetime,” Mitchell told reporters. “So we’re very excited to do it.”
A total of 12 locations will be ready for the October opening. They include shops in Dartmouth, Lower Sackville, New Glasgow, Sydney River, Truro, Yarmouth, Bridgewater, Amherst, New Minas, Antigonish, and Joseph Howe Drive and Clyde Street in Halifax.
With the exception of the Clyde Street facility, the new cannabisspecific shops are self-contained retail areas located within existing NSLC stores that still sell alcoholic beverages. The Clyde Street shop will only sell cannabis products.
At the Joseph Howe Drive site, the cannabis shop is located in the rear of the store, on the left side beside the cold beer section. The area is clearly marked and the entrance is partially screened by frosted glass.
Desks with mounted tablet devices with dedicated access to the NSLC’s cannabis website will allow customers to browse more information about the products and services. Once a decision is made, the customer can line up to speak with a person at the service counter, who can facilitate the sale. The maximum purchase a person can buy is 30 grams. Purchases will be bagged in the NSLC standard paper bags. The basic products that will be sold include flower, bud, oil, gel caps, and some accessories.
Mitchell expects there will be between 70 and 75 strains available.
All cannabis products will be sold in sealed packages that are kept in bins slotted into sections taking up the entire wall behind the counter. They will be further labelled with information related to product characteristics — similar to how a wine’s flavour profile is highlighted in the alcohol sales section of the store — and pricing information. It has not been determined what the price structure will be, although it will need to be competitive with what the black market price is to combat the criminal industry.
Online sales and home delivery will be serviced through a separate, dedicated facility.
The Joseph Howe Drive NSLC store brings in about $11.5 million a year in retail alcohol sales.Mitchell said the figures at that location are expected to double with the addition of cannabis.
“It’s our anticipation, still, that the first couple of years will be a break-even, at best. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how much we pay for the product itself. We do expect the cost of the product to fall over time and as that happens the dynamics will change around the income but we do not expect that to happen enough to offset the costs to go forward.”
Mitchell said the Joseph Howe Drive shop has enough area to comfortably accommodate about 60 customers at a time. They expect a maximum of 90 customers an hour at peak times, so lines may extend out into the NSLC store proper.
“An average transaction in a beverage-alcohol site is about three minutes and we anticipate to start that the transaction time here could be 15 to 20 minutes. So in order for us to get that up to a certain degree of speed, we want our consumers to be well prepared when they come in.”
No one under the age of 19 will be allowed into the cannabis shop at all, whether escorted by an adult or not, and anyone who looks under the age of 30 will be asked to show ID.