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Selling CBD Online


Demand for CBD products in the UK has surged since Holland & Barrett became the first high-street chain to stock CBD oil in January 2018.

Now, the experience of CBD companies with bricks-and-mortar retail provides invaluable pointers for entrepreneurs considering offering CBD online, as industry specialist CBD-Intel reports.

Analysis from online deals platform Wowcher earlier this year revealed that UK sales of products containing CBD had rocketed by 99% year-on-year, with the number of purchases doubling in 2019, and the highest sales figures in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh. CBD-Intel estimates the UK market to be worth around £190m in 2019, with more than half a million users.

Despite this, many CBD brands are still finding it a challenge to get listings in major bricks-and-mortar stores. Chris Fisher, director of business development and partnerships marketing for vitamins and supplements supplier Healthspan, told CBD-Intel: “With growing consumer demand for CBD, naturally there is an interest amongst retailers, but due to some legislative uncertainty, some remain wary.”

Fisher, whose products are stocked in over 800 stores, including major high-street chains Superdrug and Boots, added: “There are many CBD start-ups pitching to retailers who may not truly understand the legislative landscape or have little background in health supplements at all.”

Charlotte Ferguson, psychotherapist and founder of wellness company Disciple, has found it challenging to find a high-street stockist for her Miracle Drops CBD, even though the rest of her brand’s beauty and wellness range is stocked in the famous London department store Selfridges.

She told CBD-Intel: “Lots of retailers we have encountered are still super-cautious about stocking CBD. We even had a situation where we were ready to send an order and had customised packaging for a collaboration. At the very last minute the retailer changed their mind and decided they couldn’t ‘risk’ stocking any CBD because the Daily Mail had published a piece on CBD.”

Brands that have had the most success with retailers often find that the best way to get listings is to engage with pharmacists.

Hannah Skingle is chief operating officer at Dragonfly Biosciences. She told CBD-Intel: “We wanted to educate the educators, so pharmacists seemed like a good place to start. We understand how vital a community pharmacy is, so it was a key strategy to take our product away from e-commerce and into the pharmacy.”

This strategy paid off as Dragonfly Biosciences products are stocked in numerous independents and, in autumn 2018, launched in Boots – the UK’s largest pharmacy chain – Tesco Pharmacy and Day Lewis. Recently, they were launched in the pharmacy at upscale London department store Harrods, where Dragonfly products are displayed at the till point.

Skingle said: “Harrods wanted something bespoke and premium – a bigger bottle and bespoke labels for their pharmacy. They take a lot of care in how they pick their brands and there’s a lot of training. We do all our own packaging because we wanted to prove that we were the highest quality and put our own stamp on the product.”

Serge Davies, CEO of Green Monkey CBD, also believes that focusing on pharmacies is an effective way to build a trusted brand. He’s certain that product innovation and an accessible price point have also been key to Green Monkey’s success.

He told CBD-Intel: “We have positioned ourselves as a wellbeing brand and our CBD-infused carbonated soft drink is the first of its kind in the UK. It’s fortified with the vitamins and minerals that vegans are most likely to be deficient in, and it’s priced at £2.29, so it’s much more accessible. CBD is expensive, but we have a very low barrier to entry to make it as mass-market as possible.

“The CBD drink is our main focus, although we also stock drops, capsules and balms. We’re following all the other suppliers and carrying on as normal — we see CBD drinks as a massive emerging category.”

Ferguson is also interested in the potential of CBD-infused drinks. She says: “We have been discussing a CBD coffee shop for a while. I think coffee is a great way to begin using CBD, and having a setting where we have the time to educate and talk to customers is very appealing.”

Despite this, Skingle expects CBD drops to remain at the forefront of Dragonfly Biosciences’ sales. “Sublingual drops will always be prominent as there’s no element of fad or gimmick,” she said. “But in the next year I expect to see retailers with an increased appetite for creams and topical applications as it’s the least controversial method of delivery.”

Fisher from Healthspan concurs: “Drops are the most popular format at the moment, as this is a reflection of where the market started. However, we are seeing more and more customers shift towards CBD capsules.

“The CBD market is moving extremely quickly and we are very excited about the new formats we’re developing.”

To be updated on the latest news about CBD, visit CBD Intel website

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