ANTIGONISH: Since becoming legalized on October 17, cannabis has brought in $17.4 million in sales for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC), with the Antigonish outlet raking in a modest $730,000 – which is on par with the smaller stores across the province.
According to the third quarter results released on February 19, recreational cannabis sales totaled $17,382,156 in the first two-and-a-half-months of legalization; there were a total of 456,822 transactions with an average dollar value of $38.05.
Cannabis sales accounted for 9.6 per cent of the total NSLC sales in the quarter and sales of cannabis produced in Nova Scotia was $1 million or 5.9 per cent of total cannabis sales.
“This is the first period that encompasses legalization, so it’s the first insights we have into how our recreational cannabis sales are going,” NSLC communications advisor Beverley Ware told The Reporter last Thursday. “Our predictions for sales were about 30 per cent off from what we had initially anticipated sales would be, but we need to take into the account those initial projections were based on a July 1 legalization date.”
Because it was a brand new industry and the NSLC didn’t have any sales history in which they could base an anticipated demand, Ware said looking ahead, based on the sales patterns in Q3, it seems as if it’s continuing quite consistently so they think the demand and sales are going to continue at least in the fourth quarter as they did in the third.
The NSLC currently operates 12 cannabis outlets across the province, but recently Finance Minister Karen Casey said the province asked the crown corporation to look at increasing the number of outlets due to lower than expected on-line sales.
“At the moment, we’re still at the very early stages of this industry and it is a brand new industry so our priority at the moment continues to be securing inventory for our existing stores we have across the province,” Ware said. “Because inventory is an ongoing concern and it will be for some time to come, we need to get a more solid sales history established beyond this first quarter, and once we have that we can certainly evaluate our operations and see if there is any adjustments that need to be made.”
She said right now, they need to be able to provide product for the stores that currently exist – something they’re not able to do – consistently provide the products that customers want and provide the product for their existing outlets before looking at expansion.
Despite conducting $17.4 million in sales, the corporation isn’t turning a profit quite yet after figuring in implementation costs such as; the cost of buying the product, operating expenses, and labour costs from hiring and training new employees.
The NSLC is not anticipating turning a profit this fiscal year, however Ware said if they continue with the existing sales patterns that they’ve seen so far, the NSLC may have a slight profit next fiscal year.
Unlike their counterparts in New Brunswick, who just 12 weeks after legalization had to terminate 60 retail positions due to the ongoing national supply issue, the NSLC has an advantage with their store-inside-a-store approach rather than the stand-alone dispensaries.
“Lay-offs are not part of our plan here in Nova Scotia, employees who were brought on once legalization started are trained to work in both the beverage/alcohol side of our business as well as the cannabis side,” Ware said. “And so if adjustments need to be made down the road, we have the ability to transfer employees to either side of our business.”
The NSLC offers cannabis products from only two Nova Scotian licensed producers, Breathing Green Solutions in Wentworth and Highland Grow Inc. in Ohio, Antigonish County.
Being able to offer local products has certainly made a difference in terms of product shortage, and Ware said these licensed producers are providing the products their customers are looking for, strains with high levels of THC – the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.
“People are very happy with the quality of the product, is what we’re hearing from our customers, speaking with our in-store employees,” she said. “And they’re thrilled it’s local companies that they’re supporting, we’re hearing nothing but wonderful feedback in terms of the quality of the product that they’re receiving from our Nova Scotian suppliers.”