Illinois' monthly adult-use cannabis sales surpassed $100 million for the first time in March.
The new sales record, reported by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), tops February sales by nearly $28.4 million. According to the report, Illinois sold nearly 2.3 million cannabis items worth roughly $109.1 million in March.
The report also indicates that about 69% of cannabis sales came from in-state residents, while 31% of sales came from out-of-state residents.
The state's March cannabis sales were reflected in the day-to-day dispensary and wholesale operations in Illinois.
Cresco Labs, a vertically integrated multi-state cannabis operator, saw a significant lift in sales in March across its wholesale customers and its 10 Sunnyside retail locations in Illinois, said Melissa Wagamon, regional president of Cresco Labs Illinois and Michigan locations.
But what factors helped drive cannabis sales in March?
Wagamon said some macro trends in the world that she believes helped drive sales for the entire state.
"I think the stimulus [check] helped, and I think having a really lovely, warm and welcoming March, where people were excited to get outside after what was a pretty cold and dark February helped," Wagamon said. "And then as people start to get vaccinated and feel safer going outside, we're just starting to see more people out in the world."
In addition to the stimulus checks and the state's favorable weather conditions, William Butler, senior vice president of retail operations for Cresco Labs Sunnyside locations, expressed other factors that helped drive March dispensary sales, including the store's overall depth of product, its sales promotions and wellness advisers.
Butler also agreed with Wagamon that he is starting to see more people getting outside and traveling again.
"I live just outside of Chicago, and as I like to say, the city is just starting to turn back on as far as folks coming from a destination standpoint that doesn't live here," Butler said. "But that's just starting. So, as we start to see this growth [in sales], we see a lot of that come from our localized customers, which is terrific."
The spike in sales affected the dispensary and wholesale side of things. Both sides had to make adjustments to ensure orders were getting filled, product was available, dispensaries were properly managing wholesale deliveries and more.
"It was a very busy March," Wagamon said. "We are lucky in that we were able to fulfill orders for the most part, but when you have spikes in demand that are that high, we definitely felt it at the facility level. There were days that we averaged packing out about 25,000 to 30,000 units a day. We had one day where we shipped 45,000 units over 19 different orders, and that's a lot of volume for our facility."
And Wagamon said that wholesale employees were asked to work overtime to meet the demand.
"Ultimately, what her [Melissa's] team does, helps fulfill our Sunnyside locations, which is just incredible," Butler said. "So, that pack-out and those extra hours that went into the additional deliveries, part of that is a more Sunnyside."
The dispensary is starting to get more deliveries than ever before, which is exciting as it means the dispensary is doing well with sales, and it's also good to see a substantial amount of product available for customers, Butler said.
"I'm really proud of what we have done as a collaborative team to be able to manage the scheduling of these deliveries," Butler said. "You can imagine the demand that this causes in the stores behind the scenes. So, we have to be very thoughtful, very methodical about how the deliveries are coming in and making sure we have the right amount of team members in place to be able to manage those deliveries when they do arrive, because the day they arrive, we want them available on the store menu, on the website available for purchase, we don't want there to be a delay."
Butler said the dispensary and wholesale team's strong collaboration is not something that was built overnight.
"Our sales overall have been very strong month over month, but March was exceptional," Butler said. "So, I really viewed it as an extra building block. We weren't scrambling to pull it together. We were able to really turn on our best practices and just take it to that next level."
There has been a substantial increase in the number of in-store customers as well, Butler said.
"I would like to add that we still have very important measures in place when it comes to COVID prevention measures within all of our stores, for the safety of our team members and for the safety of our customers," Butler said. "So, we're proud that as we've had this influx of customers, that we still very much have very safe environments in order to prevent any issues from happening within the locations."
In addition to having safety measures in place, Sunnyside dispensaries have also added additional team members and expanded store hours across multiple locations to keep up with the increase in customers.
And the March cannabis sales have been keeping the same momentum leading into April.
"It's looking great thus far," Butler said. "We are thrilled for 4/20 as that's an incredible highlight of the year for us. I just love that we in the industry continue to make it even more important than special for our customer and for our team members in-store."
The wholesale side is also having a strong April, and the team members are crossing their fingers that the weather continues to stay beautiful and that the momentum and excitement remains high as well, Wagamon said.