CBD E-Tailer Standard Dose Opens A Not-So-Standard Brick-and-Mortar Location In New York City
Online CBD retailer Standard Dose opened its first brick-and-mortar location last week in the NoMad section of Manhattan. To call it a store, however, would be a misnomer.
There are no shelves lined with rows and rows of products akin to Sephora or CVS. Instead, each of the 100-plus stockkeeping units from 30 brands are displayed inside the space on sleek white tiles where they can be sampled. The setting, scented with a fragrance crafted specifically for the space, is more spa than shop, and it might just represent the future of how wellness will be purveyed.
At a time when traditional retail foot traffic is languishing, Standard Dose founder Anthony Saniger is trying to create an immersive experience that draws in local health enthusiasts and employees from the plethora of co-working spaces in the neighborhood as well as tourists. The spotlight is on education and services that enhance CBD use.
“Consumers tend to get overwhelmed when there are too many products on the shelf,” says Saniger. “We wanted to bring it down to one product they could try out.”
The 2,400-square foot, three-floor oasis offers yoga daily—in true Manhattan style, on a rooftop—meditation, educational workshops and soon-to-be available facials and massages featuring CBD. There’s a bar serving hemp-infused tea, too.
During a preview, guests snacking on plant-based appetizers from Altered Plates couldn’t take their eyes off a skylight installation by CoeLux designed to visually reproduce the behavior of the earth’s atmosphere and believed to be therapeutic. “Clinical studies found it could reduce heart rates,” relays Saniger. “I wanted to provide some form nature in the middle of New York City and offer a way to escape the stress of the city.”
Wellness, he argues, isn’t simply about products, but requires a holistic approach that’s reflected in Standard Dose’s physical manifestation. “Taking CBD alone without incorporating things like meditation is not enough to lead a better life,” he says. The concept mimics the e-tailer’s educational push to help people understand the hazy CBD space. There are currently seven retail associates at Standard Dose’s location with plans to scale up to 30 associates trained on every item stocked.
“Consumers tend to get overwhelmed when there are too many products on the shelf. We wanted to bring it down to one product they could try out.”
In the early days of the location, Saniger discovered staff knowledge yields sales. “In two days, we doubled what we expected even though revenue wasn’t our goal,” he says. “Once you educate, people end up buying. First and foremost, they need to know what they are taking.” Although he declined to discuss sales goals for Standard Dose’s outpost, a retail executive touring the store estimated a reasonable sales target would be at least in the $2,000 per day range.
Educational programs such as workshops on CBD or nutrition will be complimentary. Classes are priced at $22 to cover the cost of instructors. There are also plans for family-style dinners that will carry a fee.
Topical beauty products are a big component of the assortment at Standard Dose, which launched digitally earlier this year, and they drive about 40% of its sales. The bestselling CBD beauty products are those that ease pain or have cooling benefits. Among the most popular brands are Saint Jane, Vertly, Mineral, Dr. Kerklaan and Hora. Ingestible products constitute the remainder of sales.
“I always tell people it is just as important what you put in your body as you put on it. Vitamin D deficiency, for example, can affect your hair,” says Saniger. “You can’t have a cream give you beautiful skin if you eat unhealthy.”
Marcia Gaynor, the former divisional merchandise manager of prestige, global and exclusive beauty brands for Walgreens who spearheaded Duane Reade’s masstige format Look Boutique, weighed in on Standard Dose’s unorthodox retail presentation. She enjoyed it. “It was not like walking into a store,” says Gaynor. “It was like entering somewhere where you could relax, breathe and look. It is very calming. Everything is white and open air. I was surprised there wasn’t more products, but, after Anthony explained it to me, I realized it is more than a traditional store.”
Despite the product merchandising being subtle, Gaynor speculates sales volume won’t suffer. She reasons, “People are so interested in overall wellness and curiosity about CBD, it will make money.”
“It was like entering somewhere where you could relax, breathe and look. It is very calming.”
The IRL CBD playground was fueled in part by limited avenues to promote CBD products via paid search and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Google. “They don’t want trouble. They are being watched over,” says Saniger. “I hope it changes, but it caused me to think out of the box, sit back and devise how I could engage people in experience and not rely on traditional media to create something new.”
Standard Dose’s strategy appears to be effective. It’s attracted more than 100,000 unique visitors to its site, 35% of which are repeat purchasers, and its email list has soared to 10,000 subscribers, nudged along with signups at the physical location for information and workshop participation.
Does the proliferation of retailers jumping on the CBD bandwagon from CVS to Barneys New York concern Saniger? “As long as brands and companies do their homework and test and retest everything, [that] they sell it is actually good as far as education,” he says. “But if someone gets a bad product, that’s bad for the industry. What I’m not OK with are bodegas around the corner selling junk.”
If there are regulatory shifts, Saniger doesn’t predict dramatic changes in Standard Dose’s merchandise mix. “We’re not a cannabis brand. We will never be a dispensary,” he notes. Still, he suggests there’s an opportunity for CBD combined with low-level THC in products addressing a need rather than “just to get high or feed into the marijuana culture.”
LB Equity, a firm helmed by former Elizabeth Arden, Redken and L’Oréal executives, has invested in Standard Dose. To help further its growth, Standard Dose recently started raising a round of series A financing. Among other business activities, the money will be tapped to expand its physical footprint. Standard Dose’s locations could extend from New York to major cities like Los Angeles and London.