Although it feels like summer only just came to a close, brands are preparing for a rise in sales and a shift in consumer purchasing habits due to the holiday season. Understanding these movements can better inform business decisions, helping companies adapt to the festive surge and capitalize on the opportunities it presents.
Around the holidays, the cannabis market is inundated with festive-themed products, deals and discounts, and countless brands and options to choose from. As many cannabis companies look for their piece of the pot pie, brands are vying for the attention of a niche audience in an increasingly saturated market.
In an emerging industry like cannabis, it’s even more important to focus on these trends, as the constantly changing regulations mean you must stay more alert than you would in a traditional industry. Working with the shifts and trends can help brands get a better footing before embarking on the rocky regulatory landscape that is cannabis.
Let’s take a look into some emerging cannabis consumer trends surrounding the holiday shopping season.
From Black Friday to Christmas Eve
Much like any other commodity, cannabis holiday purchasing begins to increase around Black Friday. This “unofficial start to the holiday season” also impacts Canadians, as we see similar sales shifts across the border. The cannabis sector has even carved out its own unique holiday in the calendar, with a 71% increase in sales on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, affectionately called “Green Wednesday”. Because shoppers are starting their gift hunting well before the season sets in, early autumn is the time for brands to build their holiday marketing strategy. Brands should look to invest in brand building, activations within key markets, and establishing a transparent reputation through PR and marketing efforts.
Similar to any traditional industry, cannabis shopping trends are impacted by seasonal gift-buying, increased free time, and the general feelings of joy that come along with the holidays. Recent reports show that the cannabis industry sees a noticeable increase in total sales for the week just before Christmas, in tune with the rush of last-minute shoppers stocking up for gift-giving or an evening of festivities. Despite this increase, sales began the steady incline roughly around November onwards, supporting the notion that brands must act fast to get ahead of the game. Finding the perfect stocking stuffer for loved ones lives in the consumer’s mind well before their local dispensary has even considered putting up decorations. Brands should plan well in advance to gain consumer recognition and visibility in the marketplace, developing business plans around September or October to ensure their product isn’t lost in a sea of similar goods.
A 2023 survey also showed that cannabis sales across North America shrunk by 10% following the winter holidays, so it’s important to get sales in before the dip in buying habits. Anticipating these shopping trends can help brands position themselves within the “sweet spot” of sales, just before the seasonal shopping drops off and gift-giving subsides.
Cannabis Goes Mainstream: Major Publications Drop Holiday Gift Guides
Although the cannabis industry has similarities to any other CPG business, there are significant findings around the holidays that can be utilized to better position a brand within the cannabis market.
With the steady growth in acceptance and the reduction of stigmatization, cannabis is reaching new audiences. What was once a taboo topic, is now a cherished interaction shared between loved ones – a huge win for the cannabis industry as a whole. During the Christmas season, reports show a week-over-week growth of 15% – driving home the notion that it’s now the norm to find a new smoking accessory or pack of pre-rolls under the tree. Cannabis is no longer seen as a “luxury product”, but rather something to be shared with our loved ones in a social setting.
There’s no denying that cannabis is becoming increasingly mainstream, with top outlets like Chatelaine, GQ, and even Vogue releasing their own cannabis gift guides in recent years. Gifters are no longer looking for the “one size fits all” type present, and are instead looking to curate their purchases based on the precise personality traits and consumption habits of the giftee. Whether shoppers are looking for the ideal gift for the canna-curious, the cannaseur, or the old-school flower lover, cannabis gift guides are alive and well in both mainstream and cannabis trade media outlets. The value of many gift guides lies in the everlasting essence of the internet. An online guide leaves a digital footprint for months – if not years – and is readily available for gift hunters for Christmases and Chanukah to come.
Festive Fun for the (19+) Family
With the increased popularity of “Danksgiving”, and the up-and-coming Thanksgiving custom of going on a “weed walk” with your cousins, cannabis is becoming a part of a festive tradition. Often, party-goers might remove themselves from a holiday function for a brief sesh to take the stress off and manage family drama in a better state of mind. Yet the feelings of generosity and selflessness are still present, as a recent survey showed that 70% of respondents will be purchasing cannabis to ensure they have enough to share with friends and family as they celebrate the holidays.
As party hosts and cannabis consumers alike start planning their first holiday feast, 33% of respondents said they were likely to serve food infused with cannabis. Also aligned with the traditional holiday trend of satisfying your sweet tooth, edibles make the biggest wave in cannabis sales around the holidays, seeing a 30% increase in sales overall, notably chocolates, candies, and infused sugars for baking. Alcohol alternatives like CBD or THC beverages also saw an increase in sales, showing that a boozy holiday isn’t always the most appealing and consumers opt for a healthier, “herbal” experience.
Or perhaps your family members are coming around to cannabis, and your canna-curious parents are looking to explore cannabis with the ideal entry-level product: infused drinks and edibles. Despite the early 20s male “pothead” stereotype, cannabis consumers are branching out and stepping outside of this generalization. Since legalization, the demographic has shifted and now senior citizens are the fastest-growing group of cannabis consumers, taking up 12-15% of the market.
Budtenders: The Secret Weapon for Success
The key to success for brands is getting their product in front of those impacting consumer decisions: Budtenders. Holiday purchasers might be your mom who’s never stepped foot in a cannabis retail store or your friend who’s canna-curious and wants to surprise you with something to share. Budtenders play a critical role in guiding customers in the right direction, recommending categories, strains, THC levels, and more. Brands must leverage this influence and focus on tactics to connect, promote and educate with cannabis frontline staff as a way to showcase their incredible products and highlight their team and processes.
Live events prove to be useful for cannabis brands as sampling and hands-on education build trust with key markets. Tether, Canada’s Budtender community serves as a bridge, connecting brands with a network of over 4,500 Canadian Budtenders. Events like Tether’s Holiday Showcase are designed to bring brands and their products to the forefront, driving an audience of 200+ attendees that include both Budtenders and consumers. To mirror holiday gift-giving, sample bags are distributed to Budtenders and cannabis retailers so that they can be able to relay their experience directly to the customer and serve as valuable brand advocates.
Harnessing the power of the media is another effective way to legitimize your brand, reach new audiences, and tell your story. With so many cannabis products on the market, consumers are looking for a way to make shopping easy and this starts with gift guides. By generating interest from local media, trade outlets, niche podcasts, and cannabis influencers, brands can show their value through content.
With the change of the season comes changes in cannabis buying and consumption. Understanding how these market dynamics adjust around the holidays can help brands integrate themselves into their key audience favourably, and reach new audiences like never before. Cannabis brands would be wise to keep an eye on what’s going on around them and use this data as a compass. Gift guides and live events are ways brands can invest in themselves while driving scalability through market knowledge and prepare themselves for a successful holiday season.
For partnership opportunities or future collaborations, reach out to Debra Dias at email@example.com.