You don’t have to look far on the Canadian Securities Exchange to find a cannabis issuer, as some of the world’s most progressive laws governing the plant’s sales and usage have led to rapid growth in cannabis companies turning to Canadian capital markets to grow their businesses.
Among those, 1CM (CSE:EPIC) stands out for the returns it has delivered for shareholders this year, with its market capitalization recently at an all-time high of $263 million.
The multidimensional cannabis company says it is dedicated to democratizing cannabis markets. It is doing this, partly, through its One Cannabis Market technology platform, which provides business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) solutions, including last-mile delivery, digital signage, big data analytics and wholesale clearing services.
Its retail operations are centred on T Cannabis, targeting the rural cannabis retail market, and Cost Cannabis, which is focused on urban consumers.
Following the 2021 acquisition of Tirthankar, a cannabis retailer founded by industry veteran Tanvi Bhandari, the company appointed Bhandari as its Chief Executive Officer six months later.
In a recent discussion with Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine, Bhandari shared her vision for 1CM.
1CM is succeeding in an industry that many companies have found more challenging than they had first anticipated. What gives you an edge?
I think the lowest prices, accompanied by dedication to customer service. When I started my company in 2020, my main goal was to position it to have the lowest operating overheads possible, and then determine the minimum margin required for a successful and scalable business. I think that’s what gives us an edge in the market compared to other retailers.
You say you are using technology to democratize cannabis markets. How are you doing that?
With technology, we do everything in-house with the sole purpose of, again, improving the customer service experience. For example, we have the 1CM loyalty app that’s currently live on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.
This app leverages decentralized loyalty points that can be redeemed on the app for NFT coupons, in-store or taken off the app into the customer’s other non-custodial wallets. The ability for the customer to own their loyalty points and their NFT coupons and take them offline into their non-custodial wallets is a great example of democratizing the cannabis loyalty platform. So that’s something exciting. And then we also have our first wholesale e-commerce portal for retailers in Saskatchewan.
In Saskatchewan, other wholesalers operate in a more archaic fashion: they send out weekly Excel inventory lists and expect customers to send them back a purchase order.
We developed an intuitive e-commerce portal with a focus on user interface/user experience. This site allows our wholesale customers to browse, add to their cart, manage their available credit, make payments and check out.
As soon as the order is placed, we send them an advanced shipping notice (ASN) which includes the description and the images of the product that they’ve bought. The ASN can be automatically uploaded to their point of sale system, all of which significantly reduces the effort spent ordering and improves the service experience.
We also have a real-time delivery tracking app and a cannabis search engine that shows the customer the retailers around them selling the product and the price. They just need to type the product name, and it will show where the product has been sold and which location has the lowest price. This also helps us on the back end, as we use this data to ensure that our location has the lowest price.
I think there is a significant opportunity to utilize, develop and improve technology at scale in cannabis markets, and these improvements in technology will continue to democratize them.
You entered the liquor, tobacco and consumer packaged goods (CPG) retail industry this year. Why the move into liquor?
We are expanding beyond cannabis into other vice industries. We aim to become Canada’s leading vice retailer. We see the cross-segment complementarity and will leverage our strengths and experience in low-margin retail to drive revenues from these other vice segments.
This is how it happened. Earlier this year, the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) decided that they no longer wanted to operate any government-owned liquor stores and that they would all be auctioned out. Cost Cannabis won six auctioned liquor licences and then we went on to purchase some of the underlying real estate from the Saskatchewan government. The good thing about these licences is that they let us sell tobacco products along with all other CPG products depending on the municipality of the location. This is very exciting for us as we look forward to growing revenue in other vice segments, which include liquor, nicotine and CPG.
Will you look for other acquisition opportunities like this?
We’re currently looking for acquisition opportunities, both in cannabis and the liquor market. We’re trying to acquire stores at attractive valuations as the industry continues to consolidate.
Is it important to have an online presence as well as a physical presence?
Yes, 100%. I think it is important to have an online presence connected to the physical presence in this industry. That’s why we want to have the technology side of the business grow in the same way we want to grow our footprint across Canada.
Where do you see future growth coming from? Will it be organic growth or M&A?
I think both at this point. There are a lot of retailers who want to sell stores that are not performing well, so we’re looking for attractive valuations in the industry while also driving significant growth from increases in same-store sales, new locations, B2B wholesale in Saskatchewan and liquor and tobacco sales.
What’s your ultimate vision for 1CM?
My vision for 1CM is to become the leading retailer of vice in Canada, building a brick-and-mortar unicorn the old-fashioned way. That’s what I would want eventually for this company, and I think we’re going in the right direction.
This story was featured in Canadian Securities Exchange Magazine.
Learn more about 1CM at https://1cminc.com/