‘Why a Data Driven Mindset is Crucial at this Stage of the Cannabis Industry’: Q&A with Headset’s Jocelyn Sheltraw
Jocelyn Sheltraw

‘Why a Data Driven Mindset is Crucial at this Stage of the Cannabis Industry’: Q&A with Headset’s Jocelyn Sheltraw

Sheltraw, the director of industry relations at Headset, talks industry trends and Cannabis Conference 2022.

June 27, 2022

Jocelyn Sheltraw is involved heavily within the cannabis industry, from serving on the Board of Directors of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) to her role as the director of industry relations at Headset, a provider of cannabis data and market intelligence. She’s also one of the creators of CannaPac, a meetup for cannabis founders and executives. Sheltraw is an industry thought leader and dedicates her time to serving and helping the cannabis industry and believes using data can help cannabis companies grow their business effectively.

RELATED: California’s Cannabis Market: ‘A Recipe for Disaster’ 

In this Q&A Sheltraw talks about what’s happening within the cannabis industry, what product trends she sees in the market and why you should attend the Cannabis Conference.

Editor's note: Jocelyn Sheltraw will speak at Cannabis Conference from 10:00 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23 on the "ALL ACESS PASS: Product Trends Of 2022 and Predictions for What’s to Come” session. In this session, experts from some of the industry’s leading data and research companies will present their findings on product and shopping preferences by generation, region and other demographics and categories—providing key insights into today’s consumer demands and how plant-touching businesses can rise to meet them.

Visit https://www.cannabisconference.com/ for more information and to register. 

Carlie Reese: What are some product trends you see in Headset’s data that operators should be paying attention to? 

Jocelyn Sheltraw: This is hard to answer as trends can differ greatly by market, and based on factors like policy, regulation, supply chain dynamics, and existing cannabis culture. However, a broad trend we’re seeing in the US and Canada that tends to surprise people is declines in flower market share, as well as pricing.

According to a recent Headset analysis, from March 2019 to April 2022, Flower market share dropped from 78.8% to 42.5% in Canada, and 41% to 40.4% in the U.S. Regardless, flower sales are twice as large as the next highest grossing categories, which are pre-rolls in Canada and vapor pens in the U.S. At the same time, the price of flower is decreasing in both countries. From January 2021 to March 2022, the average EQ price of flower in the U.S. dropped by -22% and -17% in Canada. 

Retailers should use category, pricing, and discounting data when planning their assortment and marketing strategies, and brands should use this data when thinking about what types of products to make, the competitive landscape and how to price those products, especially given categories like flower are more saturated than, say, topicals.

CR: What are some ways that data can be helpful to retailers and brands? Are there tangible ways they can use data to increase their sales?? 

JS: Using data and technology is imperative for retailers and brands in any industry, but especially for a nascent industry like cannabis. For example, imagine you’re a vape manufacturer. … You’re going to want to know how your different SKUs are performing at your retail stores. You’re going to want to understand the sell thru rates, which products are overstocked and understocked, and what discounts or promotions perform well. 

In markets like Washington, where the median retailer carries more than 1,500 distinct products, supply chain management can be challenging when retailers and brands aren’t working together in lockstep. In April 2021, Headset found that nearly 300 of those 1,500 products hadn’t sold after 90 days on the shelves.

Traditionally, brands do not get access to this information given the retailer holds this data. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Retailers can use tools like Headset to collaborate with their brand partners, by giving them access to this SKU-level data so that the brand can have a better understanding of these insights to best support their retail partners.

CR: It’s no secret that in many ways, this has been a challenging year for cannabis industry operators. Do you have any glimmers of hope you’re seeing in the data? 

JS: I have a metaphor I like to use for retailers and brands working in the cannabis industry that I feel is a good reminder when times are particularly tough. I think about navigating the industry with the same mindset that one would use in preparing for climbing a mountain. For example, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro right before the pandemic and during the climb, there were peaks and valleys, and to ensure I reached summit I had to pack light (i.e., retailers and brands should be hyper focused on inventory and demand planning). I cut dead weight (focus on conserving cash and reducing burn), I worked with my fellow climbers (per my response above, brands and retailers should collaborate and share important data), I had a compass (i.e., your customers are your compass),? and I kept perspective that there would be ups and downs. 

We should remember that the cannabis industry is in a valley right now, and soon enough the industry will experience another peak. If we zoom out, in 2021, U.S. cannabis sales reached nearly $25B, while natural supplements reached $55B, wine $78B, and beer $94B. We’re already at the heels of major industries so just imagine what sales will look like without as much restriction and when federally legal. 

We are just at the start of this journey, and so we should be cognizant of that and remain focused and positive so we can have the best chances of completing the summit.  

CR: What do you hope attendees will bring back to their business from your session at the Cannabis Conference this year? 

JS: I hope I will leave people with tangible takeaways for how utilizing data and technology can impact a retailer and brands’ bottom line in the immediate. As an industry, we don’t have the luxury of being too future thinking given how much is always changing in real time and learning something new or changing the way we normally do business is hard because most companies are so resource limited, so I hope that by sharing actionable insights, people will see it is worth the investment of their time.


Editor's note: This interview has been lightly edited for style, length and clarity.