Cannabis NB, the new CEO of Liquor Corporation, wants to keep the momentum going

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Lori Stickles’ ongoing promotion to CEO and President of Alcool NB Liquor (ANBL) and Cannabis NB is the culmination of her efforts to navigate both provincial crown companies through troubled times.

“I’m so excited and excited to lead such a great team of people who are so passionate about what they do … I tell people I won the lottery,” Stickles told Huddle.

Stickles took over the position for good on Sept. 7, after serving as an interim replacement for former CEO and President Patrick Parent, who resigned in 2020 to return to the private sector.

Stickles joined ANBL and Cannabis NB in ​​October 2018 as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

In the early days of working with Cannabis NB, Stickles weathered the crown company’s first million dollar losses in the months after its inception – and the ensuing controversy over whether or not it should be privatized, a process that resulted in eight private offers in one abandoned appeal Suggestions.

“From the beginning, Cannabis NB was studied very carefully. The spotlight was on whether we were going to make money [and] if we were profitable. In my role, I was really able to focus on the business and opportunities to cut costs, increase sales and show the province that we are profitable, ”she said.

Stickles praised her own leadership and business model, as well as the dedication of the frontline team members to “treat it like their own business” to get Cannabis NB back in black with its first profits in late 2019.

And with a net profit of 100 percent last quarter year over year versus the same quarter of 2020 and sales up 21 percent, Stickles sees good things in the future of Cannabis NB.

She found that cannabis sales improve because there is more cannabis on the market.

“At first there weren’t a lot of products out there and it was a vendor market so we had to take everything we could and there wasn’t a lot of variety,” said Stickles.

“Sourcing products has been a challenge at times and is becoming more and more expensive, so we’re looking for ways to change things up a bit.”

Now, as more producers and products hit the market, the price of cannabis is falling.

“We have been able to expand our portfolio, negotiate better prices and offer our customers better prices,” said Stickles.

Cannabis NB is also preparing for a possible launch of its FarmGate program in late fall, which will enable on-site in-store cannabis products for local licensed cannabis producers.

“We are the second jurisdiction in Canada, after Ontario, to initiate this type of program,” she noted.

So far, five licensed manufacturers have shown interest, and Stickles predicted an initial offering would hit the market this fall.

With the ANBL and Cannabis NB in ​​alcohol and cannabis sales before last year, Stickles hopes to continue that dynamic.

That dynamic is actually part of their plan. Stickles identified recovering from the pandemic and reaching an agreement with the union as her immediate priorities.

“We are following the process and we continue to have an ongoing dialogue with the union and hope we can reach an agreement,” she said of the negotiations with the union, which represents 550 of the 700 ANBL employees, noting that they Do not disclose further details about these negotiations at the time of writing.

“We are looking for a solution and then we want to move forward on what will happen after Covid,” she added.

According to Stickles, ANBL is facing supply chain cost pressures and logistical issues as container and shipping prices skyrocket.

These challenges came along with changes in customer buying behavior, with customers visiting fewer ANBL stores but buying larger amounts of alcohol at once, with two-fours and box wine becoming increasingly popular during the pandemic.

“We saw people churn and return to their more trustworthy brands. They were just trying to limit the number of stores, ”Stickles said.

That being said, Stickles noted that the trend is slowly starting to shift, with box wines losing popularity, but two-fours still going strong.

“Traffic has pretty much normalized, but people are still buying in bulk,” Stickles said.

Getting a grip on customer trends – and what they want – is another goal that Stickles cites.

“Looking back over the past few years, the data is so noisy at the moment that we are still not sure what is an ongoing trend and what is a hangover from what is happening around us because of Covid-19,” says called them.

“People’s behavior is changing, but we don’t see what it was like before Covid-19.”

Stickles said she wanted to continue to make ANBL and Cannabis NB a premium retail experience for customers and a solid investment for their shareholders.

“We’re looking for ways in which we can be more innovative and efficient. Really, I want to get the retail industry excited again. I recently read a quote that said, ‘Retail is not dead, but retail is boring,’ and I believe customers, especially those from Covid, are looking for excitement in the retail experience, “Stickles said.

“We want to get in touch with our customers and understand what they are looking for.”

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