With its sleek open-concept stores, MedMen—one of the earliest and perhaps best-known players in the retail cannabis scene—is inadvertently creating the template for the modern-day marijuana dispensary. And what you’ve read is true: It looks and feels a lot like the Apple Store.
Adweek recently toured the company’s New York medical marijuana dispensary, one of the only of its kind licensed to operate in Manhattan. (It opened, fittingly, this past April 20—or 4/20, which to those in the know is code for the dedicated marijuana holiday.) The store is situated on the city’s chic Fifth Avenue.
“One of the components of our strategy is to ensure we’re a destination for retail shopping just as any other premium retailer—to ensure customers know they can go to safe neighborhoods where they don’t need to be ashamed of shopping for cannabis,” says David Dancer, MedMen’s newly appointed CMO.
In Southern California and Nevada, MedMen’s recreational dispensaries can be found in the affluent areas of Beverly Hills, Orange County, West Hollywood, Venice Beach and Las Vegas.
The airy, loft-like New York dispensary is the antidote to traditional cannabis dispensaries, which were notable for having bars on the windows and frosted glass, says Dancer. The products are arranged in simple categories (gels, drops, pens) and stationed behind glass boxes atop long wooden tables where iPads are perched to feed customers product info and provide basic cannabis education, such as the difference between CBD and THC. Customers leave the store with a fire-red shopping bag designed to be “iconic,” says Dancer, and something they’re “proud of.”
Sales are limited to medical-marijuana cardholders, but anyone is welcome to browse—the goal being to expose as many shoppers as possible to the MedMen brand.
MedMen’s approach points to a trend in the budding cannabis retail space, according to Kristin Krajecki, Frog Design’s strategy director and global brand practice head. “Early retailers are using a strategy that I term anchor and extend,” she says. “They’re anchoring in something familiar and then stretching it into a new experience.”
When federal legalization arrives, there will be a “mass proliferation of brands that hit the market and hit the market fast,” Krajecki predicts. If they want to survive, cannabis retailers need to do what all successful retailers do: craft a strong identity. “The number one thing I talk to our clients about,” she says, “is being clear and differentiated.”