It’s beginning to look like the Christmas of cannabis retail in 2023 was both larger and smaller, better and worse than we’ve seen before. But depending on the data set, you’ll likely find a similar story: more shoppers than ever spending fewer dollars than in previous years, with plenty of exceptions to skew the results.
On the wholesale side, retailers were prepared for a big day of sales. Looking at the four weeks leading up to 420, industry wholesale platform LeafLink reported sales were up 13.8 percent compared to the previous four weeks. Sales during the one-month lead-up to 420 were 18.3 percent higher in 2023 than they were in 2022.
According to industry software company Flowhub, the retail side saw the busiest 420 in history with dispensaries processing more than twice as many transactions as a typical Thursday. While cash was king for payments, accounting for 83 percent of all transactions, debit transactions were 169 percent higher than the average Thursday so far this year. On average, consumers tracked by Flowhub spent 17 percent more per transaction when paying with a debit card. Payment and point-of-sale systems provider POSaBIT reported its clients processed nearly $5M in debit transactions on 420.
While basket size remained the same year over year at four items, sales were down at many dispensaries. Shoppers tracked by Flowhub spent an average of $59, down 11 percent from last year. Although a lower basket total could have indicated higher discounts, the average 2023 discount of $19 was 17 percent lower than in 2022.
Flowhub’s data suggests customers were more careful with their money and selected products with a lower average price than they did last year. With “price compression” becoming the industry catchphrase of 2023, these findings are hardly a surprise.
But the data differs depending on where you look.
New Yorkers celebrated their first 420 with access to legal adult-use dispensaries. The state’s first legal retail shop, Housing Works Cannabis Co., saw more 1oz flower sales than any other product category, leading to an average basket size of approximately $90. After flower, the shop’s top-selling categories were vape pens, edibles, and pre-rolls.
Curaleaf, one of the largest multistate operators with a market cap of $2 billion, reported more than twice as many sales in New Jersey on 420 compared to last year. Curaleaf’s New Jersey stores also saw more than 2.5 times as many customers this year, pointing to more people spending less money. According to ecommerce software company Jane Technologies, New Jersey saw a 231-percent increase in total sales on 420 compared to last year.
Industry data firm Headset mapped April 20 cannabis transactions, showing sales reaching as much as $160,000 per minute across the country with a total of more than $100 million in total transactions.
According to Headset, U.S. markets saw a 136.7-percent increase in sales for the holiday compared to an average Thursday, representing an 11-percent decrease from the previous year. Oregon enjoyed the largest increase with a 227.6-percent spike over the previous four weeks, followed by retailers in Michigan and California. However, Massachusetts and Illinois saw the smallest sales lift with 68.8 percent and 74.6 percent, respectively.
Jane Technologies published its sales figures sourced from transactions made through the Jane platform for California, Colorado, Illinois, and Nevada with mixed results. While Illinois led the four in total sales with $5 million, the figure represented a 16-percent decrease from last year. Of the four states, only California showed year-over-year growth for the holiday, with an 11-percent increase in total sales.
The lack of consistency across data providers and markets is a reminder of how the patchwork of regulations and staggered starts for state-legal cannabis have created a complex and disparate national marketplace. With few states operating under the same conditions at the same time, it’s vital for cultivators, wholesalers, retailers, and the rest of the industry to pay close attention to the local trends driving the revenue and insights that matter.