When Harvest Connect was getting ready to open its flagship retail location, CBD Store and More in Roswell, Georgia, CEO Kevin Quirk says he and his team had planned “the grandest of grand openings” with a weekend full of events.
Then, the coronavirus hit the U.S. Grand opening plans fell by the wayside, and Quirk had to quickly decide whether to plow forward with the store’s debut or wait until normalcy resumed.
“We knew that we could open responsibly taking into consideration social distancing rules and recs and guidelines. That was the tactical component of it. … But the reality of it was as we were starting to finish up the store and getting all our permits, we had no less than 10 people walk into the store while we were open asking us if they could buy [CBD products]. They all had tears in their eyes, they’ve all lost their jobs, they’ve all been extremely stressed out, and their anxiety levels were off the chart, and they were just looking for something,” Quirk says. “That was the impetus for us to say, ‘You know what? Forget it. It’s time to open up, and we’ll do the best we can.’”
Quirk decided to scrap his initial plans and quickly formulate a way to open amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The company promptly got its online sales up and running, and CBD Store and More opened its doors April 7.
Harvest Connect made key adjustments to open amid a pandemic, not the least of which included a complete overhaul of the store’s layout. The initial layout featured a lobby area with educational materials and a couch for consultation, an open area filled with products for customers to choose from and a point-of-sale (POS) system in the middle of the store.
“We completely flipped the store around,” Quirk says, moving the POS system closer to the entrance so one of the store’s six employees can greet customers, consult with them about the products they need and retrieve them. Graceleaf (Harvest Connect’s wholesale and retail brand) stickers span the floor in 6-foot increments so customers know where to stand to ensure proper social distancing during their visit.
The store’s employees all wear gloves and masks, and every time they complete a transaction, they wipe down the system and anything else they handled during that time.
In addition to quickly assembling a platform for online sales, the Harvest Connect team also developed a unique system to act as a drive-thru for customers who don’t want to enter the store.
“Because we wanted to take social distancing very seriously, we developed a contact-free delivery system that utilizes a series of pulleys to deliver products right down to the car from [a deck attached to] the back of the store,” Quirk says.
First Month Sales
Online sales have reigned supreme, accounting for what Quirk estimates is about 90% of the store’s sales so far.
CBD Store and More currently carries about a dozen different brands with a wide range of products. Quirk says its target is the “discerning consumer” willing to spend more on higher-end products, as the store is located in an affluent part of Georgia filled with restaurants, bars and boutiques.
“So much of what this location is about is foot traffic and local activities and bands. Well, obviously that’s all that’s gone. Take that from its maximum to zero, and that’s where we are,” Quirk says. “But I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the amount of people calling and using the online system to buy online and pickup with our delivery system.”
Quirk says sales so far have been a bit soft but not wildly far from the initial budget. While he had planned on $15,000 to $20,000 per month in the first few months of opening, sales by April 21 had hit around $10,000.
Harvest Connect is a vertically integrated company with its hands in hemp processing, manufacturing and genetics, in addition to pursuing a medical marijuana license in Georgia. Quirk says even with sales on the lower end of estimates, the store will be able to continue operating as-is for a while.
“We’ve been in this mode of building the business and the company for a while now without revenue. Like any good well-funded startup, you’ve got a burn rate you go through and you assume that burn rate without assuming revenue,” Quirk says. “We’ve been in a really unique scenario in the sense that we’re not relying on revenue to cover our burn rate.”
So, for now, operations will carry on. The grandest of grand openings has been pushed to June for the time being, and Quirk says the company has a couple more stores planned throughout the state that he hopes to open in the second half of this year.
While Quirk wants to continue with plans for the sake of the business, he also wants to do so to make sure products are there for the people who need them, he says.
“Out of despair comes opportunity. ... We just want to make it known that we’re here to help,” Quirk says.