SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Hall of Flowers is back. California’s business-to-business event for retailers and brands will return to Santa Rosa, California, September 22 and 23 after a two-year hiatus. The curated, industry-only show provides buyers an opportunity to peruse new products and old favorites, with exhibitors showcasing every category in the legal marketplace as well as the latest in technology and accessories.
The event, which draws thousands of operators from across the Golden State to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, attracts tastemakers and trailblazers alike. The last iteration, in Fall 2019, even found actor-turned-ceramics-artist-turned-cannabis-brand-founder Seth Rogen casually examining the expanse of top-shelf flower on display, often pausing to catch a whiff.
A licensed pop-up dispensary on-site will allow retailers to obtain product samples from cultivators and manufacturers in order to examine quality and packaging prior to securing new suppliers, a crucial element of Hall of Flowers’ unique take on the traditional cannabis trade show. (Pro tip: Visit the dispensary early to beat the rush of last-minute patrons at the end of the day.)
With a bevy of indoor and outdoor activations sprawling across the fairgrounds—a one-of-a-kind marketplace, an exclusive buyers’ lounge, and the engaging Core Conversations speaker series—time flies during the event. How can retailers ensure they connect with the game-changing brands developing new products?
Tip 1: Make a list
The first piece of advice from insiders: Make a list, then check it twice.
“Everyone on-site is busy and looking to maximize their two days, so come prepared with a plan,” recommended Aengus Cawley, co-event director and senior staff member. He suggested building a fluid agenda, researching exhibitors on the Hall of Flowers website, and setting core meetings ahead of time.
Michelle Mendoza, head buyer for Sweet Flower dispensaries and delivery in SoCal, agreed with the “be prepared” sentiment but stopped short of advising attendees to schedule wall-to-wall meetings in advance.
“I don’t usually set a lot of meetings beforehand, because I want a visual representation of what everything looks like,” she said. “For me, it’s a quick kind of moving through all the different aisles, seeing brands and how they present themselves. Then I decide, ‘Okay, this is a meeting I actually want to have.’
“I think when you go to a show like this, you should have a very clear plan of what you’re looking for [as a retailer],” she added. “Do an assessment of your inventory and your menu as a whole. Find where you have gaps you want to fill and really concentrate on those things.”
Tip 2: Look below the surface
Mendoza, who has attended every Hall of Flowers event to date and will speak on the panel titled “Educating the Consumer on Social Equity,” said this year she’s seeking innovative product offerings to meet the needs of the growing number of niche consumers, including those looking to benefit from lesser-known cannabinoids.
As far as what makes the “perfect” brand in her eyes, it’s all about perception.
“The biggest seller for me is a brand’s story and how that resonates,” she explained. “It’s understanding how a brand story, along with a product, has the ability to increase someone’s quality of life.”
Cawley encourages buyers to consult with their budtenders before the show to learn what they’d like to see in stock. Budtenders can provide insight about what consumers have been talking about.
“Speak to your staff,” Cawley advised. “They are the front lines of your organization. When you’re not on the floor, they are there day in and day out connecting with consumers.”
Tip 3: Enjoy the experience
Johnny Boddy, a buyer for Calma in West Hollywood, is looking forward to attending his first Hall of Flowers. He’s mainly looking for high-quality flower, including CBD-rich strains, as well as edibles and other items considered to be “novelty” to appease the significant number of tourists who enter his dispensary.
“I think I’m just going to be a kid in a candy store,” he said, laughing. “My expectations going in will just be to soak up what I can, whether it’s learning more about the beautiful cannabis plant or learning about potentially great partners.”
For those who can’t make it to Santa Rosa, there will be two more chances this year to engage with the event. The first-ever Hall of Flowers Experience at MJBizCon will take place October 20-22 in Las Vegas, followed by the premiere of Hall of Flowers SoCal in Palm Springs December 8 and 9.