The relationship between Fire & Flower Inc. (OTCQX: FFLWF) and its strategic investor Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (OTC: ANCUF) had signaled that someday the convenience store chain Circle K would get involved with cannabis. It seems the day is getting closer as Fire & Flower announced the openings of its first two cannabis retail stores adjacent to Circle K locations in the province of Alberta.
Fire & Flower’s plan is that it will gain from the high traffic at these Circle K locations that will be convenient for cannabis customers. The company said it believes it will maximize the benefit of the Spark Perks program and Spark Fastlane online ordering services at conveniently located stores.
“As we continue to build our relationship with Alimentation Couche-Tard, Fire & Flower is very pleased to be embarking on this initiative together,” shared Trevor Fencott, Chief Executive Officer of Fire & Flower. “We believe that combining convenient pickup locations with digital engagement offered by the Hifyre platform and Spark Perks program presents our customers with a differentiated value proposition in an increasingly competitive cannabis retail market. This approach to innovation in omnichannel and convenience-oriented cannabis retail differentiates Fire & Flower and positions us well to capitalize on both domestic and international opportunities.”
The company said the two stores in Calgary and Grande Prairie are expected to be the first of additional opportunities to co-locate cannabis retail stores in the future. The statement said that the co-located stores will be owned and operated by Fire & Flower and are separate from the adjacent Circle K in accordance with all applicable regulations. Alimentation Couche-Tarde said it has set its sights on the global expansion as new cannabis markets emerge.
In August 2019, Fire & Flower closed a strategic investment by Alimentation Couche-Tard. The company noted in its filing statement that this transaction allowed for Couche-Tard to obtain a controlling interest and provides more than $380 million of growth capital for global expansion. It provided significant, new possible commercialization and leadership opportunities for Fire & Flower’s proprietary Hifyre digital platform and access to Couche-Tard’s leadership team.
It has been argued that if cannabis is rescheduled and treated like alcohol or tobacco, cannabis products could end up in convenience stores. Products for adults over 21 like alcohol and tobacco are already sold in the convenience store model, so adding cannabis to the mix isn’t a stretch as long as the product is fully legal. A few cannabis companies had already begun to establish such relationships, if mostly behind closed doors.
The cannabis industry doesn’t want to discuss such an outcome as it would destroy the need for dispensaries. Plus, convenience stores typically only carry products from a small group of very connected consumer package goods companies. A look at the beer offerings demonstrates that only a handful of choices are offered. These beers, not necessarily considered the best the industry has to offer, are sold at high volumes.
This is the fear for many in the cannabis industry. The convenience stores may only carry a few big-name brands, that may not be the best cannabis, but is scalable cannabis. The winners of all this volume business will only be the ones picked by the convenience store chain. Cannabis brands will have to decide if they want to be a craft business or a volume business like Budweisers.