Green is growing in Buckley, but the face of one of its two marijuana retails is changing.
Mr. Bills of Buckley, now part of the Kush21 family of nearly a dozen stores in Washington state and Illinois, is finally making a “slow” brand image transition — but store manager Nicole Nourse is keen on making sure the store and the services that local marijuana users have come to know and love remains the same.
“Coming together as one full company expands the customer experience,” Nourse said in a recent interview. “It’s the same [staff]. Same stuff, just expanded. Better selection, better deals… I fell like what we’re struggling with is a lot of people are looking at us like we’re corporate taking over Buckley, but that’s the opposite of what we’re doing.”
Perhaps unknown to most residents and customers, Mr. Bills actually sold to Kush21 around four years ago. In October, the marijuana retailer chain wanted to start transitioning to its normal brand image, though Nourse added that she wants to continue to keep the “Mr. Bill’s” name somewhere in the business’ official title, as well as keep some of the memorabilia from the locally-owned store to retain that “small town” feel.
And the Buckley store remains singular in that it’s the only pot store in the Kush21 family that offers medical endorsements for customers in need of medical marijuana. This means the local “budtenders” are state-certified medical cannabis consultants who can register people as medical marijuana users into the state database and assist patients with finding products that may help with their conditions.
“That’s really important to us, because cannabis is more than just for stoners,” Nourse, herself a Buckley resident, said. “It has lots of medical benefits, and we’re… expanding people’s education on what cannabis has to provide for them.”
Breaking the stereotype of cannabis and its users — or what marijuana retailers can do for their community — is important to Nourse.
She herself managed coffee stands and got her real estate license before deciding, “as a joke”, to apply for a job at Mr. Bills/Kush21 two years ago.
“I applied here thinking, ‘Oh, I used to smoke week. What can go wrong?’” she said.
To her surprise, she was hired, and she worked her way up from budtender to general manager.
“Honestly, the way that the business is ran, how appreciated you are and how recognized you are for anything you put into the company, is kind of what won me over,” Nourse continued.
On that point, Nourse said her store is now working on getting their employees benefits on top of their paychecks, yet another perk to being part of a larger company.
But beyond Nourse’s drive to educate people and change the image of marijuana, it’s probably the sales that really drive people into the store.
At this time, Mr. Bills/Kush 21 is having a 30% off sale for all of November and December as a way to show customer appreciation while the business makes a brand transition; Nourse added that, starting in January, the store will continue similar sales on a regular basis.
While Nourse said she feels that the business is struggling with the optics of the brand change — and with it, customer retention and sales — it might just be the marijuana economy that’s slowing down the market; the Seattle Times reported last December that retail marijuana sales dipped 8% in 2022 from the previous year, for a total of about $120 million, the first revenue fall since pot shops opened in 2014.
That matches up with the store’s comparative monthly revenue, according to topshelfdata.com — Mr. Bills/Kush21 posted record sales of more than $900,000 per month between March and December 2020, but sales have steadily declined since then to an average of just over $707,000 per month between January and August 2023.
Still, that’s several hundreds of thousands of dollars over the previous monthly record when Mr. Bills was locally owned at just about $472,500 in December 2016, according to 502data.com.
But marijuana is also becoming cheaper — according to Bloomberg, the retail price of a gram of marijuana dropped 13% from the third quarter of 2021 to the same time period last year, in part because producers ramped up business and there was an oversupply during the pandemic.
Some marijuana retail businesses, including Mr. Bills/Kush21, hope that Washington will soon legalize marijuana deliveries to help with lagging sales.
For more information about Mr. Bills/Kush21, head to kush21.com/mr-bills-is-now-kush21.