Emerging Cannabis Market Starts Fast, Never Slows Down at RetailNOW 2021

By: Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing & VAR/ISV Business Advisor at the RSPA

The RSPA went all-in this year on the cannabis vertical at RetailNOW – and the channel responded. Hundreds of executives flocked to the first-ever Cannabis Community Networking Reception and the first-ever cannabis education track, proving that attendees were eager to learn more about this emerging market.

The RSPA’s pursuit of this niche is member-led, including the idea to host a reception at the show. The Cannabis Community launched in 2020 virtually (like pretty much everything last year), so when RetailNOW kicked off Sunday, July 25, many of the 150+ active members had never met in person. Realizing that, the group suggested during its online meeting in June to plan a reception at the show to help members better understand where each other play in this market. With the RetailNOW agenda already packed, the group then decided to trek to Nashville early and host its reception Sunday afternoon, before the show’s New Member/First-Time Attendee Reception and First Look Welcome Reception in the exhibit hall.

Many business cards and ideas were exchanged after introductions galore among the attendees. First-time RetailNOW attendees with a managed services background mingled with second-generation POS resellers. Executives from payments companies eager to learn more about the cannabis space so they’re prepared when it’s federally legalized (and dispensaries can accept credit cards) picked the brains of VARs and ISVs who have completed multiple cannatech installs. Hardware manufacturers sat down with software developers to talk cannabis over a beer.

RSPA members are truly serious about this vertical, so their cannabis discussions didn’t stop at the party. Monday and Tuesday saw two highly-attended education breakouts each day with strong audience participation every session. You know how some conference presentations yield no questions from the audience? I sat in on all four sessions of the cannabis track, and the audience was engaged from the start to well beyond the finish with presenters frequently being swarmed by attendees after the session.

RSPA members can view each RetailNOW breakout in its entirety through the on-demand section of RSPA Academy EXCELerate. A few cannatech session quotes jumped out to me:

  • “If a dispensary has been open a year, they have likely already changed POS software once.” Daniel Wilson, VAR Anthem Business Solutions
  • “Traditional rarely works in the cannabis world.” Randy Roe, VAR Retail Technology Services
  • “The cannabis industry has been around for years but only now is it generating tax revenue.” Dan Foote, MSP DanTech Services

All four sessions clearly resonated with the channel executives in attendance. A few of the comments from the RetailNOW post-event survey included these gems:

  • “All the cannabis seminars were terrific. They built on each other – I like the fact that there were different speakers addressing the same industry from slightly different angles.”
  • “This session disseminated industry knowledge of a growing revenue opportunity from within the RSPA to other members.”
  • “This session was engaging and helpful for those who are new to the vertical.”
  • “Useful information on regulations and on how to get a foot in the door.”
  • “Great discussion of guidance to navigating this channel.”

Also at the show, the RSPA debuted its new eBook “7 Elements of a Successful Cannabis VAR,” featuring the definitive list of 34 technologies that help dispensaries run efficiently and create a frictionless customer experience.

Who provided the insights for this exclusive resource? You guessed it: the RSPA Cannabis Community.

About the RSPA Cannabis Community
The RSPA Cannabis Community helps members meet and network with others interested in the cannabis vertical, helps members learn from each other’s experiences and insights, and fosters business development opportunities for RSPA members, all in a vendor-neutral atmosphere.

Among the topics discussed during community meetings are establishing partnerships (with vendors, VARs, ISVs, distributors, cannabis MSPs), the cannabis technology stack, the cannabis software landscape, compliance, new regulations, emerging opportunities, and market-specific challenges for VARs and ISVs.

The RSPA Cannabis Community is home to many of the top organizations in retail cannatech. The RSPA and 11 association member companies are listed among the Leading CannaTech Influencers by 420MSP.

Because the RSPA is North America’s largest community of VARs, software developers, vendors, and distributors in the retail, restaurant, and grocery verticals, the association is strongly positioned to meet the needs of IT solution providers who serve cannabis dispensaries. The RSPA is at the forefront of educating the point of sale industry about the cannabis vertical.

Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Marketing and a Business Advisor for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim has been recognized as one of the world’s Top 100 Retail Influencers by RETHINK Retail, a Leading CannaTech Influencer by 420MSP, and is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences on SMB best practices. He is author of two books – The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer – and is host of the award-winning RSPA Trusted Advisor podcast. For more information, contact JRoddy@GoRSPA.org.