In a channel where consumers spend an average of three to four minutes in the store—and only 21 seconds at checkout, per NACS data—education of a complex new category was always going to be a challenge. “You can’t tell the story of what CBD does on a product package,” says Patterson. “You have to get creative.”

And some retailers have done just that in 2020. One outside-the-box option has been to actually recreate the dispensary experience. In May, Duxbury, Mass.-based VERC Enterprises replaced its Subway franchise space in a Plymouth, Mass., store with a CBD Wellness Center.

“Our new CBD Wellness Center is focused on providing the community with lab-tested CBD options for everyone’s budget,” CEO Leo Vercollone told CSP at the time of the launch. VERC’s CBD supply partner, Ceres Natural Remedies, provides not just products but also educational session on CBD for VERC’s staff and customers every Saturday.

Converting a QSR space to a dispensary may not be feasible for every retailer, but suppliers have been seeking ways to do so on a smaller scale.

Greenbox Robotics developed a line of cannabis “robots”—akin to high-tech vending machines—to streamline the recreational marijuana dispensary experience by allowing shoppers to skip the line and purchase certain products immediately. Since then, the line has evolved to include hemp-derived CBD solutions for mainstream retailers, including a 7-Eleven pilot program in Boulder, Colo.

Johnson of Greenbox says the fact that the robots not only sell CBD but also offer educational videos and reviews for shoppers—all in a non-self-service format—takes the onus off store employees. “The consumer is going to have questions, and the staff doesn’t have enough time,” he says. “The high-end experience instills confidence in the customer while helping the retailer.”