The Ultimate 420 Guide for Retail Dispensaries

420 sales and marketing ideas and proven steps to higher profits on the biggest day in cannabis retail.

420 Marketing and Sales Ideas

For the vast majority of cannabis dispensaries, 4/20 will be the high-point of the year (pun intended). With a record number of sales across the United States and Canada, 420 has always been the ultimate day of observance — the highest of all holidays. But this year, the stage is set for everything to be bigger, better, and higher.

We’ve learned a lot of tricks from six years of working with cannabis dispensaries across North America, and in this guide we’re sharing how to plan for 420 and what makes dispensaries successful on the day – from 420 sales ideas, to 420 marketing mantras, to inventory prep and everything in between.

What Makes 4/20 This Year Different From Before

420 has historically been the biggest sales day for dispensaries all over North America and Europe as people celebrate the global Cannabis Culture Day. 2024, however, is going to be special.

Day of Week Matters

For the first time in five years, 4/20 will fall on a weekend, Saturday, to be precise. A lot has changed for cannabis during these five years – more legalization, more shops, more freedom. All of this together means that this 4/20 2024 is set to be the single biggest sales day in Cannabis history. And the sales will likely continue into the weekend.

Here are some statistics to put into perspective exactly what cannabis dispensaries stand to gain in 2024:

  • Despite falling on a Thursday, 4/20 last year was still twice as busy as the busiest day of the week - Saturday. Meaning this year’s 4/20 on Saturday will likely reach an all-time high in 420 cannabis sales.
  • Sales on 4/20 have been steadily increasing, with an average year-on-year increase of 23.2% between 2021 and 2023.
  • Average store revenue nearly doubled on 4/20 last year. US cannabis dispensaries made, on average, $11,527 compared to a regular day’s $5,927.
  • Cannabis legality has more than doubled, with recreational cannabis use legal in 24 states in the US, compared to just 11 states in 2019.
  • According to the BDSA, cannabis sales are expected to hit $32 billion in the US, compared to 2019’s $12.2 billion and 2023’s $29.5 billion.
  • Over 500 Cova-powered cannabis stores celebrated their first-ever 420 last year, many more are expected to do so this year.
  • The average cannabis store in Canada made $5,263 on 4/20 last year, a significant increase over an average day’s revenue ($3,356)
Transactions Through Cova

Proven 420 Marketing Strategies to Increase 420 Sales

Given these statistics, you might think engaging in little-to-no promotion in the weeks and days leading up to 420, you’d still see an uptick in sales. You may be right, but don’t forget, these are average figures, meaning there were some dispensaries who were far more successful than others.

With that in mind, here are some 420 marketing ideas and strategies that have a proven record of getting customers through the door on 4/20:

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check your state or province’s laws regarding marketing restrictions before launching your own marketing campaign.

1. Become an educator

4/20 is, first and foremost, a day to celebrate cannabis culture. Yes, you can sell a lot of products, but there are also countless opportunities to educate, inspire, and impress new consumers.

Consider creating interactive content that informs newcomers about relevant topics that improves their cannabis journey and shopping experience through one or more of the following channels:

  • Company blog
  • Facebook page
  • X (Twitter) posts
  • Tiktok videos, Youtube Shorts, and Instagram Reels
  • Join a local podcast
  • Email newsletters
  • Influencer-promoted content
  • Webinars

2. Be more involved in the community

This is something cannabis retailers should consider doing year-round, but it can be especially useful in the lead-up to 420. Research the local events in your area and brainstorm creative and engaging ways to get involved.

For example, one Denver dispensary participates in a weekly organized bike ride by setting up a photo booth inside a vintage VW van. The price of entry and photos? Just a valid email address. Talk about a brilliant way to increase community exposure!

3. Spread word-of-mouth

Word of mouth is the single most effective way of increasing sales and brand loyalty. It’s especially useful on 4/20 as people will naturally discuss cannabis. Ask customers to share their experience on social media, create referral codes for customers to share with their friends for an extra discount, put out discounted gift cards – there are several ways to get the word out.

4. Organize Live Events

This year, 4/20 starts on a weekend, which makes live events a great idea to drive traffic to your store. Here are a few ideas for creating a great experience.

Editor’s Note: Check with local ordinances/bylaws for legalities and any permitting requirements).

  • Book a live band or musical act to perform.
  • Host a food truck or other local vendor and provide free snacks to patrons waiting in line to keep them occupied and not lose patience.
  • Hire cannabis social media influencer(s) to create hype on their channels or do a social media takeover
  • Offer limited-edition swag bags or gift boxes for orders over a certain dollar amount or the first 100 (or however many) customers.
  • Make it a party! Set up activities, games, and/or raffles.

5. Start a countdown campaign

Build anticipation by launching a Countdown to 420 on your website and social media channels. Offer incentives in the days leading up to 420, and use the opportunity to hand out swag bags of branded goodies like t-shirts, lighters, grinders, and rolling papers.

Check Your Systems… And Check Them Again

Going into 420 with unproven software is risky and the last thing you want is a slow, sluggish system that can’t keep up or, even worse, crashes during peak hours.

Everything Is Fine Until It's Not

Inventory management and sales systems in particular are critical for a successful 420. In addition to being able to handle the increased volume coming your way, your POS system should also have these mission-critical features:

  • Near-instant transaction processing to ensure checkout wait times are as low as possible.
  • Offline mode so you can keep lines moving even with Internet outages.
  • Built-in compliance so you don’t have to worry about manually calculating and reporting sales at the end of the night.
  • Reliable support team to quickly and efficiently handle any technical issues.
  • ID scanner to ensure that no underage people enter your store illegally (which tends to happen a lot on 420 and can be difficult to manage with an overcrowded store).

Editor’s Note: If you’re unsure about your current POS abilities, a simple Google search with your current dispensary POS system, along with the term “crash” will likely bring up any recent or significant historical outages and/or delays.

Choose a fast and accurate POS that has plenty of redundancies built in to ensure smooth end-to-end functionality.

For instance, on last year’s 4/20, Cova's cannabis retail POS system processed over 273,000 transactions with an average processing time of just 1.3 seconds! To top it off, Cova has maintained a 100% uptime record for six years straight!

Setting Up Inventory and Merchandising for a Successful 4/20

Consumer psychology studies have revealed that shoppers tend to display certain patterns and how you lay out your sales floor and arrange your products affects your bottom line.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your sales floor:

  • Maintain a tidy entryway: You always want to make a good first impression on your customers, and that starts with keeping the entryway clean, welcoming, and clutter-free.
  • Drive traffic to the right: Shoppers typically enter to the right and move around the store in a counter-clockwise fashion. Merchandise strategically by placing your doorbusters and biggest deals in priority from right to left around the store.
  • Don’t crowd the sales floor: Some retailers like to display as much inventory on the sales floor as possible. But too many options can lead to analysis paralysis where shoppers end up purchasing less, rather than more.
  • Dedicated consultation booths: Smarter shop floor plans and limited inventory display will free up space for dedicated consultation booths, where budtenders can advise customers on products that best meet their requirements.
  • Upselling: Make the most out of the occasional and first-time users 4/20 brings by strategically placing higher-priced products near advertised deals, maximizing upselling opportunities. Train staff to upsell effectively, as even occasional users are often happy to spend when given a better shopping experience.
  • Create themed displays and product bundles: These could be in line with an overall 420-theme, or smaller bundles based on other ideas — an outdoor survival pack, date night kit, or gifts for the canna-curious, the possibilities are endless.

Similarly, it’s equally important to prepare your stockroom for the staff. It may be tempting to order a wide variety of SKUs, but you’ll be better served by simplifying your inventory and ensuring that you have plenty of your most popular products on hand.

Improve your internal operations by adopting a few simple yet effective strategies.

  • Remember the FIFO principle: first in, first out. Make sure your back room is set up ahead of time so that the oldest inventory gets sold first.
  • Work closely with your marketing team to ensure you are stocked up on the SKUs that will be on 420 promotion.
  • Get your stockroom organized, give staff time to get used to it, and start receiving big shipments ahead of the big day.

Enhance In-Store Experience & Customer Flow

Keeping paper menu sheets or a manual board up to date with inventory is near impossible on a day like 420. Digital signage tells customers what’s available in real-time, enabling sales staff to deliver personalized shopping experiences to more customers.

Additionally, a solid cannabis-specific POS and inventory management solution will ensure your menus stay up-to-date — both in-store and on the most popular online cannabis marketplaces.

You can further optimize foot traffic and reduce bottlenecks with differentiated store flows by:

  • Setting up an express checkout line or curbside pickup for customers collecting online orders (if allowed in your jurisdiction)
  • Installing an ID scanner at the entryway to speed up the check-in process.
  • Install self-service kiosks equipped with touchscreen menus to offer customers a seamless browsing and ordering experience, complete with contactless payment options and personalized product recommendations based on user preferences.
  • Implement a customer queuing function to enable guests to explore the sales floor at their own pace, while also alleviating congestion at checkout lines, supplemented by an efficient queue management system for a seamless and personalized customer experience.

420 Sales Ideas: Specials, Promotions, Deals, & Discounts

420 is a celebration of all things cannabis, and one way dispensaries celebrate is by offering incredible 420 deals – everything from BOGO offers and price reductions to bundled gift boxes and free brand merch.

1. Freebies & Gifts Promotion

Many dispensaries are moving away from extreme discounts and towards value-added incentives, such as giving away freebies when customers orders cross a certain dollar value.

With enticing or exclusive products up grabs, this strategy encourages customers to shop more, increasing the average basket value for 420.

2. Win New Customers with a Loss Leader

On the other side of the spectrum, many dispensaries choose to lead with a loss-leader (typically a product that is about to expire or one that you have more of in stock), positioning it as a doorbuster deal to draw people into the store with the extremely low prices.

Loss-leaders have historically performed well on 420 because they attract customers with enticing 420 deals and encourage additional purchases of higher-margin items, allowing dispensaries to come out on top.

3. Simple Price Drops, Bundle Deals, and BOGO

Most dispensaries will supplement their more extreme strategies with simple price drops on popular items. This is a straightforward way of attracting customers that does not involve taking a loss or forcing them to buy more.

In the same vein, you can also bundle two distinct types of products (for instance, a popular basic item with a more premium product) with a combined price drop – increasing the perceived value of the bundle in the process.

And finally, there’s no 420 promotion simpler than BOGO or Buy One, Get One. Studies have shown that BOGO offers are more effective than just striking 50% off retail because the thought of getting something for free is more appealing to the average customer.

4. Customer Loyalty Programs

Converting new customers into repeat patrons by offering enticing 420 deals and a great experience is a key part in maximizing 420 revenue. Most dispensaries do this with a loyalty program that discounts future purchases or with a points system.

Make Loyalty Programs Easy

You can also make things easier for yourself and for your customers by choosing a POS with a loyalty program integration specifically designed for cannabis dispensaries. Additionally, you can offer double points as a special offer for the 4/20 weekend.

Editor’s Note: Loyalty programs may not be allowed in every state. Make sure to check your state laws or get in touch with Cova to speak with an expert for free.

Cova Springbig Loyality Integration

5. Gift Card Programs

Gift cards are one of the safest and most convenient ways to improve cash flow on holidays that focus on gift-giving, and occasions like 420. Additionally, many dispensaries will allow users to buy gift cards at a discount to strengthen their loyalty program and encourage word-of-mouth.

These branded cards boost your retail profits while also serving as tiny billboards for your cannabis dispensary.

Best of all, a branded gift card that is fully-integrated with your cannabis POS system, such as Cova, is simple to set up, easy to manage, and a great tool to capitalize on holiday season sales. If you don’t have a gift card program, learn here how to launch one at your dispensary.

Prepare Your Staff

While giving your customers a great deal on 420 is expected, providing an unforgettable dispensary experience is what will keep them coming back for more.

Here are a few strategies to help you empower your team and set a cohesive tone to deliver memorable customer experiences:

  • Analyze Previous 420 Sales Data: Check out previous years’ 420 sales data to get an idea of the busiest times of the day and plan out a strategy accordingly.
  • Team Briefing for 420: Consider setting some time aside beforehand to communicate with the team, give a quick motivational pep talk to help them mentally prepare for what will likely be a very busy day.
  • Clarify Roles and Goals: Ensure everyone understands their designated roles and responsibilities, as well as your goals and priorities for the day
  • New Employee Product Training: Provide new employees with sufficient time and opportunities to learn about your products. For instance, by letting them shadow experienced budtenders.
  • Use dispensary POS to its full potential: Your Point of Sale is a tool to improve productivity and should do more than just ring up sales. A quality cannabis-specific POS will free budtenders from the counter, allowing them to access product details and inventory data on a tablet while roaming the sales floor with customers and answering their queries.
  • Create a private Facebook or WhatsApp group just for your employees: This can serve as a platform to further build camaraderie and communicate with team members. You can share helpful budtending videos and product tutorials, while also keeping track of the overall work climate.

Review, Analyze, & Plan for Next Year

Post 4/20, set time aside time with your whole team to go analyze every aspect of your store’s 420 experience and carry those lessons over into 420 planning and preparation for next year.

Here are some tips to help you conduct a productive action report that will be both honest and helpful:

  • Don’t postpone the report: The more time passes between 420 and your review meeting, the more details are likely to be lost. Plan to hold the meeting as soon as possible after 420, and schedule it in advance so your team is prepared

  • Have an agenda: To get the maximum value out of your report, it’s important to have an agenda laid out in advance. You’ll also get more out of your team members if you give them some questions and points to consider ahead of time — things like:
    • What did we do exceptionally well on 420?
    • What could we have done better?
    • How effective were our 420 promotions?
    • What kind of customer feedback did we get?
    • Were our lines and wait times manageable? How can we improve them next year?

  • Encourage participation: A team becomes stronger when everyone feels included and valued. Ask for and encourage feedback from everyone on your staff; they were a part of the 420 campaign, and they all have unique perspectives and insights to improve the store's performance next year.

Along with reviewing your dispensary’s 420 performance, take a look at what other cannabis retailers in your area did and whether it worked.

  • How did their 420 promotions and deals stack up against yours?
  • How can you use this intel to plan for a better 420 next year?

Remember: It’s never too soon to start thinking about and preparing 420 plans for your biggest day of the year!

Ready to Make the Most of 420?

With all the time and resources you’ll put into preparing for 420, the last thing you need is a system crash on your biggest day of the year. This is why more than 2,000 dispensaries rely on Cova to process their 420 transactions with speed, accuracy, and reliability.

Cova is the only cannabis retail POS system to report 100% uptime on 420, six years in a row with zero network outages. In 2023’s 420, Cova POS systems across the United States and Canada processed more than 273,000 transactions – that’s more than 190 transactions every minute! An average transaction time of 1.3 seconds means that Cova customers don’t have to make their customers wait in line or face delays.

If you’re ready to nail 420 this year, contact Cova today for a free demo – and have a successful 420 powered by the most efficient and reliable dispensary technology solution.