COVID-19 Crisis Pressures CBD Category

Retail sales slip as consumers buy more online
Photograph: Shutterstock

CHICAGO — The emerging category of cannabidiol (CBD) products appears to be taking a hit from the current coronavirus health emergency, according to a data research firm, with sales across all retail falling by as much as 30%.

Online sales of the medicinal category appear to be stronger, said Bethany Gomez, managing director of Chicago-based research firm Brightfield Group. With many states issuing precautionary stay-at-home orders during the latter part of March and into April, she said Brightfield has seen a “big shift” to e-commerce.

“A lot of channels, such as specialty retailers, smoke and vape shops have closed down,” she said. “A lot are trying a click-and-collect model, but many of them are running into challenges.”

For convenience stores specifically, Gomez said retailers may encounter challenges with the CBD category because many c-store shoppers buy on impulse. Unfortunately, a CBD purchase, which tends to be a higher ring, may not fall into that category.

“Heavy users” of CBD products often believe their items are essential, and they are purchasing higher doses, stocking up and consuming more because they want to ease the anxiety that the health emergency is generating. In that light, c-stores, which have been deemed essential businesses, have been allowed to stay open.

In a recent Brightfield survey of 2,600 CBD consumers, Gomez said 38% would increase their usage during quarantine, with about half saying they had no intention of reducing their spending.

But the increase in e-commerce spending is a definite trend. Out of all the consumer segments they track, Gomez says the “habitual, heavy users are driving the market and shifting to online.”

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