1 month into legalization, P.E.I. Cannabis, FIGR take on more staff to keep up with demand

It's been just over a month since Islanders could legally purchase cannabis online and at retail shops on P.E.I., and officials with P.E.I. Cannabis Corporation say its first month of operation has gone smoothly while also providing a number of opportunities to improve. 

"It's been very well and we've received a lot of positive comments from our customers, some great feedback on how we can improve things," said Zach Currie, the director of cannabis operations for P.E.I. Cannabis Management Corp. 

John Robertson/CBC

P.E.I. Cannabis has released its sales numbers for the first week of legalization. Its customers purchased $591,264.75 of cannabis products in its three retail locations and online store. 

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 Currie added that from now on, P.E.I. Cannabis will share its sales numbers publicly on a quarterly basis. 

Taking on more staff, increasing hours

Currie said while P.E.I. Cannabis was confident with its staff compliment at the time of legalization, it is now in the process of taking on more casual staff members to help with high demand at retail stores.

The new staff members will provide in-store support over the holiday season when sales are expected to increase and as permanent employees take their holiday leave, he added.

Brittany Spencer/CBC

Alex Smith, the chief financial officer of recreational cannabis supplier FIGR — which has commitments to supply pot to P.E.I. and Nova Scotia — said the company has also taken on more staff. FIGR has hired eight new employees dedicated to working a packaging night shift to manage a backlog of packing orders. 

FIGR ran into delays over the last month after issues with its packaging suppliers prevented it from getting products to store shelves on time. Smith said staff are now working around the clock to get ahead of demand across the Island.

"Now that we've started to get some of that packaging that was a little delayed approaching legalization we're putting in some long hours trying to catch up and fulfil those orders," Smith said.

"Just like anything, the more you repeat it the better you're going to get at it and now our staff are getting really quick and good at what they do."

Moving forward with consumer feedback in mind

Currie said keeping product in supply has also been a challenge for P.E.I. Cannabis and the company will continue to monitor consumer trends to try to stay ahead of demand. 

"The biggest thing is this national supply shortage ... that's been a challenge, one that we feel we've done a very good job at hedging against and overcoming but we know that there's still work to do," Currie said. 

A number of P.E.I. Cannabis customers also experienced delivery delays when purchasing online over the last month, a problem Currie said the company has since addressed. He said P.E.I. Cannabis has been tweaking its online systems over the past few weeks and the number of online errors has gone down.

Steve Bruce/CBC

"Again, it's all about working with our stakeholders, the great internal team we have to overcome those challenges as best as we can, while recognizing the environment that we're in today may not be the environment that we're in, you know, in a month's time." 

Smith said moving forward, FIGR has begun discussions with a packaging supplier it hopes to partner with more permanently and moving forward will be looking at more sustainable packaging options. 

"People want to see some reliable, recyclable, responsibly-sourced packaging," Smith said. "I think moving forward you'll see us try to reduce our packaging where it's possible and I think the market itself will come out with some solutions."

Smith added that FIGR currently has about 75 per cent of their product lines on the market and it plans to expand their offering over the next few months.

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