I’ve seen independent garden centers stretch — real hard — to offer just about any random product they think could boost impulse sales and foot traffic. I certainly had some of those moments myself when running an IGC operation. Sometimes non-associated inventory can make sense in your garden center, while other times it can seem just downright desperate. The next new hot thing in the retail marketplace is cannabidiol (CBD)-infused products. But are CBD products right for your garden center and your customer?
Take the CBD plunge?
The marketplace has been absolutely flooded with a dizzying array of CBD products in the last couple of years. I’ve already seen some local garden centers around me in the Dallas area jump on the bandwagon. But how do you sort out what’s appropriate — and safe — for you to sell? We’ll get into the legalities here in a minute; but I think the first and most important question is does it make sense, based on your brand and marketing goals, to sell CBD products at all?
Sure, popular non-associated impulse items can make sense in your garden center, if they are relevant and meaningful to your target customers. I mean, if all those bras or scarves you stocked your garden center with really saved your business and put you in the black long-term, then more power to you. But if that’s really the case, then I’d be forced to scrutinize how well you were running a plant-selling business in the first place — or who really makes up your ideal target customer pool.
There is also still legal risk involved with selling CBD oil products. As a garden center, you’re not exempt from law enforcement scrutiny. There are many CBD oil products out there that claim to be tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-free but are not. Without doing third-party testing on your own, you’ll only have the manufacturer’s word to rely on when you decide to stock their product.
Expect that CBD oil product you sell in your store may be purchased, without your knowledge, for THC testing by law enforcement. You might have heard of the Staple & Spice Market — a health-food store in Rapid City, South Dakota — that was raided in May 2019. Local law enforcement seized the CBD oil products from the store because they stated they contained THC. Luckily, no charges were filed against the store owner, because it was tough to prove they knew about the THC content before they purchased the product. Based on the manufacturer’s claims, the store thought they were buying THC-free products. Turns out those manufacturer claims didn’t match up with reality.
Test the limits
While cannabis laws continue to loosen in some areas of the country, local law enforcement is also spending new money to tighten up enforcement of new legislation and perceived loopholes. In August, Ohio announced the creation of the Major Marijuana Trafficking Grant Program. The purpose of the program is to allocate funds to local police departments for certified testing of cannabis or CBD products to determine the exact THC levels — something that has been difficult to do with their existing testing technology.
If you are considering selling CBD products at your garden center, make sure you fully understand the local laws surrounding THC content levels, and find a certified laboratory that can test samples of the product before you put it on your shelves. Better yet, make the manufacturer or distributor pay for that extra independent testing for you upfront. If you don’t, the local cops might just do it for you, and you might not like the outcome.
Make it relate
Now, if you can source legal CBD products that are geared toward the health and wellness lifestyle specific to gardeners and plant lovers, they can certainly work well for you. Creams, healing patches, bath bombs for sore or cramping muscles, balms for chapped lips or cracked dry hands and personal scents make sense to me for traditional garden centers and their customers.
If you’re an indoor plant shop, still have a floral service department at your garden center — or a gift shop that successfully turns home décor — then some of the CBD chocolates or other candies and CBD candles can make sense as garden gift add-ons.
Look for products that incorporate other natural botanical extracts and scents, so you can tie them into your herb, fragrance or other related plant category. It’s much easier to relate these products to your gardening customer’s needs and market them authentically. Doing so can also help you create educational classes or workshops to introduce your customers to botanical CBD products.
In my experience, all your product choices need to be relevant to your core customer; random inventory buys are often nothing more than a temporary bandage. Before you jump into CBD products for your garden center, create a strategy to authentically grow them into your garden centers identity —and that of your customers.