When it comes to selling cannabis through a retail shop Paul Thompson and his partner, Leanne McPhie, have thought of everything. Before they opened Little Leaf in Stratford, Ontario they visited dozens of stores, taking notes on where they could improve on the customer experience. Paul’s background in consumer electronics and Leanne’s experience in project management allowed them to take that list of notes and tackle the opening of a weed store with the efficiency of a special forces strike team.
They hired Zen Woodworking, a local contractor, to do all their carpentry. They split the store up into sections based on category to avoid overlapping conversations about different products. They are the first and only banner store for RYOT, another Canadian company focused on accessories. Perhaps most importantly they hired a diverse workforce who are passionate about cannabis.
“I hate the word budtender. A budtender just stands behind a counter and says ‘Okay, what do you want?’ At our store we have over 700 products so our main goal is to educate customers.”
The staff at Little Leaf are given the title of Cannsultant and are trained on a proprietary system developed by Paul and Leanne. The trademarked process is called ‘W.E.E.D. the S.M.A.R.T. Approach to Cannabis Sales.’ It’s designed to guide customers through a series of questions to determine the best product for their desired sessions. They call this the Little Leaf, Big Experience.
Paul relates the role of Little Leaf’s Cannsultants to the employees at LCBO stores across the province.
“I really rely on those LCBO employees to help me select a bottle of wine based on the different flavours, profiles, aromas, pairing and effects. I find cannabis really lines up with wine—the variety, the complexity.”
The number of cannabis stores in Stratford has tripled in the last year, bringing the total to six for a population of only 30,000.
“There’s going to be a lot of competition,” Paul says. “But if we’re all carrying Good Supply, Tweed, Edison—it’s hard to differentiate ourselves on product so a broader selection from the OCS is necessary.”
Although he is careful not to outwardly advocate for a minimum price for cannabis he says with a smaller price gap between retailers “loyalty becomes more of a factor. They’ll come to our store because of education, the layout, the environment, the experience versus going to another cash and carry type store.”
Paul and Leanne continue expanding and strengthening their customer base. Through social media, a commitment to education and a desire to meet their customer’s needs Little Leaf is slowly but surely becoming a knot in the fabric of Canada’s legal cannabis industry.
Paul remembers the resistance to seatbelts when they became mandatory and likened it to the stigma around cannabis—it won’t last forever.
“Little Leaf is built for the consumer to open up the conversation,” he says, “and let people know that all of society did not cave in and die after legalization.”