What you need to know about the substance that's taking the gift industry by storm
It seems like everyone has a story about a friend who was able to fix her chronic pain, relieve stress, or end sleepless nights, all through downing a daily dropperful of a seemingly miracle oil with a rather forgettable acronym.
CBD. The initials are short for cannabidiol, and it's a chemical that comes from the cannabis plant. And yes, it's related to the marijuana plant, but CBD oil is harvested from a sister plant called industrial hemp. What's more, as of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD oil is legal to buy in all 50 states. Consumers have discovered that taking oil orally, or rubbing it into the skin as a balm, can alleviate pain inflammation, reduce stress, help you get a good night's sleep, and even reduce pain in pets.
"There has been excitement around CBD and cannabis in general in the western part of the country for quite some time," said Ginna Van Zandt, vice president of sales for Huntsboro Hemp Company. "But really, it's sped up and become more of a national thing in the last two to two-and-a-half years. People are seeing the benefits and they're desiring more natural remedies for all kinds of ailments."
Gift shop owners across the country are discovering that CBD products have a great profit margin and a steady repeat business. But although legal, there is still relatively little testing or monitoring of CBD products. Quips one supplier, "It's like the Wild West!" With plenty of suppliers hopping on the CBD bandwagon, it's essential for retailers to do their homework when choosing a CBD product line to carry.
Choosing CBD Van Zandt says there are certain questions a retailer should ask their supplier when deciding which hemp products to carry. "You want to see if it's third party tested, where there's a certificate analysis that ensures the product is what it is, what the CBD concentration is and whether there's any THC present."
Huntsboro Hemp Co. carries a line of CBD tinctures, bath bombs, and CBD-infused honeys. The bestselling products are the honey sticks and the relief tincture. All the hemp is grown on the company's farm, and the honey is also harvested on the farm. "We like to keep things as close to its natural form as possible- nothing synthetic, no preservatives," said Van Zandt. "We want to be known for being transparent and open."
Twine CBD is another company that has found a following among gift retailers, likely because it's found by two gift-industry veterans, Missy Rosenkampff and Angie Barlow. Like many who've gotten involved in the industry, Rosenkampff found CBD while trying to find relief from chronic pain. "The CBD worked to the point where I was no longer taking Advil for my back," said Rosenkampff. "At the time, the only way to buy it was at a vape store, and I thought there has to be a way to buy it somewhere else!"
Rosenkampff and Barlow decided to create a line of CBD products geared toward the gift industry, choosing as their source a Kentucky farm that was part of a hemp research pilot program. The farm's industrial hemp is tested to be THC-free, that is, free of any traces of the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its "high." This means that Twine hemp is perfectly save to use for government workers, teachers, and others who might be subjected to random drug tests.
The company carries flavored and unflavored CBD oil in various concentrations, as well as a topical CBD cream and pet products. "We designed our products with tiered pricing," explained Rosenkampff. "If people get started at our $25 introductory product and have success with it, they'll come back and buy the 30-day supply, and it'll become a repeat purchase. We have a display that takes up less than 2 feet of retail property, and it's around a $2,200 to $2,500 return on investment."
Retailers can choose to focus on the offerings from one trusted company, or they can offer a selection of CBD products to give customers a range of packaging types, flavors, concentrations, and price points.
Another consideration when seeking a vendor is the types of sales and educational material they can provide to help educate your staff as well as your customers. Some vendors offer FAQ sheets, signage, information-rich websites, and other documentation. With all the misinformation swirling around this emerging product category, having educational materials at hand is invaluable in making sure you explain the products in a way that consumers will understand what it is, and what their expectations should be in terms of how it might affect them.
Because of this misinformation, carrying CBD is not without its challenges. "It's still kind of taboo to certain people," said Rosenkampff. "The first clarification we like to make is that CBD is NOT marijuana. The farm bill that passed in December 2018 made the industrial hemp plant legal in all 50 states. The second thing is. CBD is not psychoactive. People often ask, and I going to fail a drug test? The answer is no."
The Gift Connection But why have gift stores become such an ideal avenue for CBD products? "What I love about independent gift stores is that people already trust them," said Van Zandt. "They have an established reputation of bringing in new and high-quality products. With CBD being an emerging market where there are still a lot of questions, people trust gift shops as a place to purchase this product. It's a safe place for customers to take a chance on something new and different."
Van Zandt said that customers can span a range of ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic status. "We have people from four to 94 using our products," she noted, although Rosenkampff does not recommend CBD for children, since so little research exists.
Rosenkampff echoes Van Zandt's sentiment that gift retailers are the ideal outlet for CBD products. "Buying this type of product online is so confusing, with regard to the dosage and the usage suggestions," she said. "We've made sure retailers can explain this product to their customers. It's one of those things that people want to buy from someone they feel comfortable with."
One retailer who has found success with Twine's CBD products is Jennifer Sullivan, owner of Owl's Nest of Blue Ridge, Ga. Sullivan admits she was reluctant to carry CBD oil at all- partly because she didn't understand it, partly because so many other retailers in her area carried it and she likes to differentiate her offerings.
Then her sales rep told her how well it was selling elsewhere, and she decided to give it a try. The product sold so well she had to reorder it six times in the first six weeks she had it in stock.
Sullivan keeps the product display right by her cash register, so she can talk to customers who express interest and help educate them about the possible benefits. She says she keeps a tester of the cream on hand for customers to try out, and has an open bottle of the oil so customers can smell the peppermint flavor and feel the consistency. She also has samples supplied by Twine that she can hand out, which helps generate sales. "I've had customers try the cream and in 10 minutes they're back to buy some because they can already feel the difference," said Sullivan.
"People are ready and willing to try this," she said. "It can really help with so many different areas of your health."
Like Sullivan, other gift retailers are discovering the potential for CBD products, and enjoying increased sales and repeat business. And it continues to be a market with great potential for growth, especially as more studies emerge about the benefits.
Said Rosenkampff, "This is a huge market; it's expected to be a $22 billion industry by 2022." And that sounds like an opportunity that could help just about any retailer feel less pain.