Is 420 Still the Biggest Holiday in Cannabis? What Should We Expect from 420 in 2023?

April 20, 2023

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April 20th has been the most anticipated holiday in legal cannabis for years, bringing with it spikes in store traffic and total sales. Holiday interest continues, even among dedicated cannabis consumers. However, after over a year of price compression in the cannabis space, many might be wondering: is 420 still a money-making holiday? The hockey-stick growth trends that were a hallmark of legal cannabis in its infancy may not be the norm in today’s markets. Nevertheless, you can still count on 420 bringing huge increases in store traffic and overall sales, across the legal cannabis landscape.

With 420 falling on a Thursday this year, expect the biggest sales boost to come from the holiday itself

In 2022, the 420 holiday produced an astounding sales increase, greater than those of 2021. BDSA Retail Sales Tracking data shows that daily dollar sales (across all BDSA-tracked markets) on 4/20/22 were greater than 200% of daily sales on any other day in that month. Conversely, 420 daily dollar sales that previous year were roughly 85% greater than the daily sales on any other day in April 2021.

BDSA Seasonality data highlights that cannabis retailers experience more sales on Thursdays than on Wednesdays and Tuesdays. Given that 420 fell on a Wednesday in 2022 and a Tuesday in 2021 (days that typically see lower sales than Thursdays), expect 420 to bring an even bigger spike in sales this year, on a Thursday.

Expect Emerging Markets (AZ, FL, IL, MD, MO, NJ, PA) to Experience a More Substantial Increase in Total Dollar Sales during the holidays

When looking at the aggregate of all BDSA-tracked markets, 420 saw the largest increase in daily dollar sales of any holiday in 2022. The second biggest holiday for cannabis sales was Green Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving), with 420 bringing in 31% more daily dollar sales total than Green Wednesday. Across all markets, sales on 420 were on average 120% greater than any other day in 2022.

In comparing markets, 420 drove a bigger increase in daily dollar sales in emerging markets than in mature markets. Specifically, 2022 emerging markets exhibited 134% greater daily dollar sales on 420 than any other day in April. Conversely, 2022 mature markets (CA, CO, MA, MI, NV and OR) saw a smaller (but still high) increase in daily dollar sales on 420; 114% greater daily dollar sales than any other day in the same month. While 420 drove a huge sales spike in emerging markets last year, other holidays were nearly as impactful. Emerging markets experienced 420 sales that were only 12% and 16% greater than those on Black Friday and Green Wednesday, respectively.

Pricing Trends Predict Mature Markets to see the Biggest Discounts on 420

In 2022, decreases in average retail price on 420 were greater in mature markets compared to emerging markets. BDSA Seasonality data covering 2022 spotlights the 420 holiday week discount to average retail prices was 2x more in mature markets.

Across BDSA Retail Sales Tracking Markets, New Jersey experienced the largest price drops during 420 holiday week (-15% average retail price). A distinction likely skewed by the state launch of adult-use sales on April 21, 2022, which produced a significant bump in average prices at retail. After New Jersey, Nevada exhibited the second largest 420 holiday week discount (14% less than the average retail price on any other week in April 2022).

420 Will Drive an Increase in Basket Counts, Especially in Mature Markets out West

2022 Basket counts and basket size, across all BDSA-tracked markets, increased on 420. Interestingly, it was predominately mature vs. emerging markets that experienced larger increases. For instance, the mature Michigan adult-use market similarly experienced a 121% increase in average basket counts on 420. Conversely, the emerging Illinois adult-use market had a 56% increase in basket counts on 420 than any other day in April.

420 Sales Lift Anticipated Across all Product Categories, With Unit Sales Lifts in Preroll and Flower

April 2022 product category share was minimally affected by 420. Different product categories were discounted at slightly different rates on 420, with mature markets discounting inhalables at slightly higher rates, while ingestibles and “other cannabis” products were discounted at higher rates in emerging markets. Discounting may not have changed overall product category share by dollar sales, but when considering UNIT sales, the pre-rolled joints and flower categories exhibited the most significant sales boost.

In mature cannabis markets, pre-rolled joints saw a 182% increase in equivalent unit sales on 420 compared to the average of other days in April 2022. Similarly, flower saw a 175% increase in equivalent unit sales, compared to a 169% increase in equivalent unit sales seen across all categories. Product category share of dollar sales remained roughly the same on 420 compared to other days in April 2022, due to more significant discounting across these categories that saw the biggest spike in unit sales.

Social Consumption Has Been on the Rise After Taking a Hit During the Pandemic, and 420 is Likely to Benefit from this Trend

Trended Consumer data show that more social occasions like “just hanging out/small get-togethers” were less commonly cited after the onset of the pandemic. In Spring 2021, although 49% claimed to consume in that occasion, social consumption has been on the upswing. In BDSA’s most recent Consumer Insights wave, the share of consumers citing this as a consumption occasion rose to 62%, making this the second most claimed consumption occasion.

“Relaxing/unwinding” remains the most cited occasions to consume, per BDSA’s most recent Consumer Insights data, with 77% of consumers citing this as an occasion that they consume cannabis. Just because some of these consumers may not be driven to consume socially does not mean that they will miss out on the 420 holiday, as BDSA data consistently show that low price is a top driver of cannabis shopping occasions. The myriad of deals on the 420 holiday are likely to attract consumers even if they do not plan on celebrating by lighting up with friends.

With the huge economic shifts that we have seen over the past year, from rising interest rates to troubling inflation, many may wonder if holidays like 420 can still provide the sales boost in legal cannabis markets that it has in the past. While the legal markets and the cannabis consumer landscape look different now than in the past, 420 still presents a huge opportunity to boost legal cannabis sales. Brands and retailers that prepare for the holiday with a thoughtful approach to pricing, promotions, and product assortment stand to see significant gains on the stoniest holiday of the year.

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