Company Background

Trove Cannabis is among the fastest growing recreational marijuana stores in Washington state. Located in Bellingham, it offers the area’s best selection of high-quality marijuana flower, infused edibles, concentrates, and topical cannabis products. Trove also has a knowledgeable sales staff. Known for its exceptional customer service and product quality, Trove is so well regarded by its patrons, it won a Silver Award at the Best of the Northwest show in 2016.

Yin-Ho Lai and his partner Stephen Reed opened Trove in 2015. Lai and Reed have a passion for providing high-quality cannabis to customers and the community, and it comes through in their store, which is open seven days a week. Trove focuses on providing value to its customers by offering a broad product portfolio at competitive prices. They also feature complementary products from local companies at their store.

Trove offers a full menu of products that is among the most extensive in the northwest. The store sells three strains of high-quality cannabis—Hybrid, Indica, and Sativa. It also offers concentrates, drinks, pre-rolls and special deals every day of the week that include discounts on selected products. Meanwhile, Trove’s Gold Membership enables patrons to earn rewards, exclusive deals, and a chance to buy products only available to members. Trove’s blog and e-newsletter educate patrons on the finer points of cannabis.

Emerging marketplaces often present unique challenges for entrepreneurs. The retail cannabis industry is no exception. Selling recreational marijuana can be especially lucrative for retail stores. Users spend nearly $30 billion dollars annually on marijuana, says the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, fueling double-digit growth in this arena. The cannabis industry is among the fastest growing in the United States.

But to operate a retail store in this marketplace, owners must deal with some unique challenges, such as inhospitable banking regulations, an uphill battle with federal law, and higher taxes. One challenge common among retail cannabis stores, however, is managing cash flow efficiently. It’s especially challenging for rapidly growing cannabis stores, including Trove.

Trove beat this challenge by installing an automated cash management solution from Bibbeo, Ltd. This smart safe-based system simplified store operations, reduced payroll hours dedicated to cash handling, fostered a safer store environment, and boosted visibility and accountability of all cash transactions—all while helping improving customer service.
Cash Rules in the Cannabis Industry

Cash rules in the cannabis retail industry—mostly due to the fact that selling marijuana violates federal law. Therefore, banking regulations aren’t as hospitable to marijuana stores as they are for other retailers. Given this constraint, many cannabis retailers handle business transactions in cash. On top of this, many cannabis customers prefer to pay for their products in cash because of the anonymity cash provides. Due to these dynamics, many cannabis retailers find themselves awash in cash. Handling this influx of cash can present numerous challenges, as it did for Trove in their early years of operation.

Trove had two key cash management issues. One pertained to the purchasing of change. Since the store’s change boxes weren’t secure, store managers couldn’t fill them up too much at any one time. That meant the managers were constantly filling up the change boxes and the store’s cashiers had to bother a manager whenever they needed to purchase change. Needless to say, Trove had to have a manager on the premises at all times. It also had to have a manager come in early to set up the cashiers’ tills for the day, boosting payroll hours.

Trove’s second cash management issue had to do with preparing deposits. Trove’s employees spent considerable time handling cash and preparing deposits for pick up by the store’s cash in transit partner. The effort included reconciling any discrepancies and inaccuracies employees found during the process. Reed estimates that store employees spent anywhere from 1.0 to 2.5 hours daily handling cash and preparing the deposits. That was time that Trove’s employees could have spent answering customer’s questions or facilitating sales.

Growth Intensified Cash Management Challenges

Trove’s rapid growth early on intensified its cash management challenges. “We knew our cash management system was inefficient, but we were getting by when we first opened,” says Reed. “Once we started growing, however, we were handling so much cash that we became seriously concerned about how we handled the cash and our employees’ safety.”

“We were also concerned that we had little accountability when it came to handling cash,” Reed adds. The store’s continued growth eventually forced Reed and his partner to start taking a serious look at automating their cash management processes.

After six months of researching cash management providers, Trove contacted Bibbeo, Ltd., a nationally recognized provider of automated cash management solutions. Headquartered in Denver, CO, Bibbeo provides clients with hardware procurement, product installation, and project management services. It also has 24-hour phone support for all clients. After talking with Reed and Lai, Bibbeo recommended installing a smart safe solution.

Smart Safe Automates Cash Management

A smart safe is designed to help retail stores manage day-to-day cash flow efficiently. It features an integrated color console where all system commands are handled, note validators, note cassettes located behind a secure vault, and a secondary storage vault to handle manual drops.

Troves’ smart safe system also includes an integrated coin and bulk note dispenser. It enables secure and accountable dispensing of larger volumes of flat notes for start-of-shift till amounts and quick replenishment of till funds. The coin dispensing system dispenses presorted coins at the touch of a button. Cashiers can count and account for the coins and notes dispensed using the PIN-based touchscreen and/or iButton data key system.

“We preferred Bibbeo’s cash management solution because it was the only one that offered both the features we wanted and the dimensions we needed,” says Reed. “Plus, it was user-friendly, which we thought was important for our employees. Bibbeo’s approach to customer service was a consideration as well as the fact that we could do a trial run in our store. In the end, we felt very comfortable bringing this solution into our store,” Reed adds.

Installing the system in Trove’s back office for the trial run went smoothly. There were no disruptions to store operations or customer service. Trove’s employees quickly came up to speed operating the smart safe solution. From all these factors, the decision to make the smart safe solution a permanent part of the store’s operation was an easy one for Reed and his partner. It wasn’t long before the system became an integral part of store operations.

Addressing Cash Management Issues

The Bibbeo cash management system helped Trove immediately address their cash management issues. Among other things, it simplified change management. Cashiers no longer had to bother a manager on the floor or in the back to purchase change or prepare their morning tills. They can perform these tasks themselves now, which frees managers to help customers or attend to other store priorities. Plus, the cashiers can deposit any extra cash they have in the smart safe at any time. It validates the bills, counts the money, and provides them with a receipt.

The smart safe also simplified deposit preparation and reconciliation. Cashiers make daily deposits to the smart safe, which counts the money and records how much cash employees deposited. When required, an authorized employee then takes the money out of the safe and places it in a deposit bag ready for pick up by Trove’s CIT partner. Automating the process not only streamlined deposit preparation but also eliminated the time spent reconciling discrepancies. That allows cashiers to spend more time dealing with customers.

“Implementing the smart safe solution has made a big difference in store operations,” Reed points out. “In addition to fostering a safer environment, it made purchasing change easier, provided more control over our cash flow, and cut the time it takes to prepare deposits to no more than half an hour each day. We estimate that that saves us between $7,000 and $10,000 annually,” says Reed. “Plus, we no longer need a manager here in the morning to prepare the cashier’s tills, which helps us gain a better handle on payroll hours.”

Doing More Than Trove Thought It Would

The Bibbeo cash management solution is doing everything Trove wanted, and more. Due to the efficiency and accountability it provides for its cash processes, the system improves customer service by freeing managers and cashiers to spend more time answering customer questions or helping make a cannabis selection.

“The thing that really surprised us was how quickly the smart safe became an integral part of our operation,” says Reed. “In addition to automating and streamlined cash handling, it boosted employee productivity and increased store efficiency. Plus, our employees love having the technology in the store. They have fewer interruptions as a result and feel a lot more secure. We can’t imagine going back to the old way of doing things.”

Trove’s future is bright. It continues to grow at a record pace and is quickly becoming the store of choice in Bellingham for buying quality cannabis product. The store’s owners are looking forward to making Trove the top selling cannabis retailer in Washington with its automated cash management solution and to expanding operations when the opportunity presents itself. It’s a safe bet that the store owners will install a Bibbeo cash management system if and when they open a second store.

“We liked the system so much we’d definitely install another one in any new store we open,” says Reed. “It’s made a big difference in how the store operates and in helping us grow our existing location. We think that much of it.”