Dispensaries Can’t Have Sales in NY. What Can You Do Instead?

A shopper stands at checkout making a purchase at a cannabis dispensary.

The cannabis industry in New York is subject to some strict regulations, especially when it comes to running promotions and offering discounts. While businesses in other industries use sales and similar promotions to capitalize on the influx of holiday shoppers, cannabis retailers are unable to do the same. So, what can you do during the holiday season when plenty of shoppers are likely looking for gifts for cannabis-consuming friends and family? It’ll take some creative thinking, but there are solutions.

What are the regulations regarding sales and promotions?

In New York state, licensed cannabis businesses are prohibited from advertising sales or promotions based on the regulations set forth by the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). This includes giveaways, discounts, and customer loyalty programs.

The precise language of guidance issued by the OCM is as follows:

Licensees cannot give away, including through donation, any cannabis products. Licensees cannot advertise giveaways, discounts, price reductions, points-based reward systems, or customer loyalty programs including, but not limited to, by using the words “sale”, “free”, “price drop”, or “discount” on a menu, in any communications to customers, or elsewhere. This does not prohibit licensees from changing the price of cannabis products or otherwise “discounting” products.

Of course, this doesn’t mean retailers are unable to change the pricing of their products — you just can’t advertise the discount, which sort of defeats the purpose from a marketing perspective. However, reducing prices and other clever sales tactics can still offer a benefit to your customers and your sales numbers.

5 promotions to try when you can’t have a sale

Although you’re not able to advertise holiday sales to your audience — or any other sales for that matter — there are still some reasons you may want to reduce pricing as holiday shopping shifts into high gear. Additionally, there are some ways you can use to remain compliant with New York state law while availing your customers to wallet-friendly options. These five tips can help you drive business and ensure your customers have truly happy holidays at your dispensary.

1.    Feature your best-selling and most profitable products

You don’t have to necessarily advertise price drops or discounts to bring in customers. Feature your best-selling products or those with the highest profit margin in your marketing materials as the holiday season approaches. These products may be enough to bring customers in and drive more sales of your most lucrative products without running afoul of New York state law.

2.    Bundle products together based on a theme

The holiday season could be a great time to pair some items together based on a theme, such as items that offer a similar effect or those that complement each other nicely. For example, you could offer a “DIY R&R” bundle that contains a stress-busting strain, topical products that ease aches and pains, and edibles that help with relaxation.

Pricing these bundles advantageously compared to purchasing each product inside individually could incentivize customers to buy multiple products instead of just one or two. They also serve to showcase the wide variety of cannabis products your dispensary has on hand. Who knows? Some of your customers may discover their new favorite product this way and come back for more in the future. Consider bundling new products or ones you expect to make a big splash as a way to get the word out about them.

3.    Advertise cannabis delivery services

There’s no rule against advertising your cannabis delivery services, and holiday shoppers are often short on time. Let them know that you can bring their gift purchases directly to them when they place an order for delivery. That’s one less stop they’ll need to make during the busy holiday season and they’ll be grateful to your brand for helping them out. It’s also a great way to let people know that your dispensary delivers cannabis, which is a relatively new offering for New Yorkers. Taking advantage of the holiday season to spread the word could result in more sales to a wider area in the new year too.

4.    Promote the product types shoppers look for during the holidays

Understanding how shoppers interact with cannabis dispensaries ahead of the holiday season is critical to success. While the biggest cannabis sales days of the year — 4/20 and Green Wednesday — are in the rearview mirror, there’s still time to make one last push before the year’s end.

According to data from Headset, the week before Christmas is a big shopping week in the cannabis industry. Expect shoppers to go for cannabis flower and vape products the most, as they usually do. However, you’re likely to see significant increases in the amount of topicals, cannabis beverages, and edibles. So push these products to make the most of the holiday rush — even though it’s cold outside, these product types are likely to be hot.

5.    Showcase holiday-themed products

There’s no shortage of products that fit the theme of the holiday season. Whether it’s an edible in holiday-inspired packaging, a product flavor like peppermint or cinnamon that matches the winter weather, or a frosty-named strain, these products have obvious links to the winter holidays without ever advertising a sale.

Take advantage of the holiday season for your cannabis dispensary

The holiday season is a busy time of year for retailers everywhere, and just because dispensaries can’t have sales doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of opportunity. By considering the tips above, you can make the most out of the holiday season, driving more sales, boosting customer satisfaction, and refining your strategy for the new year.

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