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Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022


Marijuana is a criminal, gateway drug. Marijuana should be legal in 50 states and the Marshall Islands. Or … something in-between. Regardless of your take, you’ll enjoy Peter J. Brennan’s stories on Kush Bottles, a publicly traded everything-but-cannabis, cannabis co. Kush opened in 2010.

Tom Umberg gave me a whiff of what the ‘Kushies’ are up against. The partner at Irvine’s Umberg/Zipser LLP has been asked by distributors (not Kush) to be on their boards—he’s a retired Army colonel, stints in the state Assembly, and an expert in business litigation. Umberg’s also attractive because in 1997 he was tapped by President Clinton to be Deputy Drug Czar.

“I turn them [the distributors] all down,” Umberg said. “Not on strict moral grounds, though I believe prevention is still the best drug policy. I also don’t have the time to vet the good guys from the bad guys.”

Umberg concedes the taxes will generate millions in Calif.—but that’s just a dent repair on a $183 billion budget, sure to be busted all over by mid-October.

If pot sales take off here Jan 1, that’d be a positive retail story. No doubt much of “traditional” retail is ailing. Chief culprits are The Great Disrupter—Amazon, time poverty, lack of innovation—see surf wear industry. But there are winners and winning strategies—I keep hearing from those who have barely skipped a beat. “You have to sell the experience,” says Debra Gunn Downing, merchandising chief at South Coast Plaza. SCP’s brick-and-mortar retailers ring up $800 per SF in sales, and the mall has endured two years, tops, per Downing, when year-over-year sales didn’t grow. The private mall’s annual sales now approach $2 billion, per the company.

Another factor in those steady SCP results—forging clusters and adding OC exclusives—like luxury Italian watchmaker Officine Panerai, coming this fall …

Darrell Denny is EVP at San Juan Cap’s Emerald Expositions, largest B2B trade show operator in the U.S. He’s tapped into retail trends. Fresh off the semiannual Outdoor Retail for folks in the $887 billion outdoor and lifestyle segment, here’s what Denny observed, aside from hordes of private-equity folks circling the Denver expo: “I look at companies like REI. They’re doing well, opening stores—they focus on experience and focus on culture,” Denny said. “You want someone who isn’t pretending to understand the product, knows it in a precise way.”

Denny says his retail clients are talking to each other about their traditional and online strategies. “Are we adhering to MAP pricing? Are we partnering with the right brands? What is our online strategy?”

Denny agrees today’s millennial consumer might be less likely to own things because ownership diminishes them in their peers’ eyes. “They’re a lot more interested in shared experience.

No space for “Inspiration Points.” Two next week.


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