Name Your Price

What if the 3 letters consumers looked for weren’t THC, but SRP?
SRP
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In 1983, punk band Minor Threat released their one studio album Out of Step. For the cover, they chose a bold addition: the price. 

Like a lot of retail items, every LP comes with an SRP, or suggested retail price. It’s sometimes referred to as the Manufacturer’s SRP but it’s essentially the number the company thinks a customer should pay for the item before taxes. In electronics or car sales, it’s often referred to as the list, or window price.

For twenty-five years, that record continued to be pressed and printed with the sticker price right on the front, even updating from three-fifty all the way to eight dollars in 2007.

What’s interesting to me is that, as we’ve taken more and more from traditional retail into the world of selling weed, We haven’t seen SRP gain popularity or even be regularly talked about. For years I’ve asked farmers and brands what the suggested retail price of their items are, but it’s only in the last four that the most common response shifted away from “what’s that” to “we don’t like to tell the stores what to do.”

Why is it that brands putting out consistently impressive products often don’t feel like they have a say in the final price of their work?

If you look online for examples of SRP in the cannabis industry, you’ll find mostly beverage companies coming right out and telling people on their websites what they think stores should be charging. You might find that bold for a flower or extract brand but for many retail items, it’s right out of the standard marketing playbook. 

For cannabis, SRP can help retailers and brands have a valuable conversation about what competition someone’s product(s) would have at their desired range and how much meat is on the bone for both parties. With things being what they are for California’s legal cannabis industry, these are conversations about mutual self-preservation and respect for each other’s craft. 

Also, it helps have a chat with customers who often feel like knowing SRP gives them a better position to shop from. Hell, for cars. The idea of showing people a sticker price listing out pricing was made a law in 1958. In 1996 AriZona printed 99¢ on the front of their iced tea cans.

Should growers or manufacturers have a suggested price stickered on the front of the bags or jars? I’m not entirely certain, but I do know that corporate cannabis is already starting to try it.

St. Ides—part of Pabst Labs who, along with Schlitz, Lone Star, Pabst, is owned by Blue Ribbon Partners—just released a THC beverage with a $7.99 price printed right on the can, just like that Minor Threat album we talked about.

Even though education on the concept of brands suggesting a price to your vendors is happening, and the St. Ides move isn’t rocket science, smaller brands still don’t feel empowered to make that clear, suggestion using this prevailing retail strategy.

Meanwhile, most of us can attest to seeing items priced anywhere from a five to fifteen dollar difference before taxes from spot to spot, and most times, you can guarantee the brand was paid the same price. For someone who might have just stopped into a shop while on the road, it can sometimes spoil a sale or make someone feel less inclined to stick with a company when they see pricing jump as soon as they leave their local selection.

You can’t villainize retail by resting the blame solely on their shoulders. Though you hear plenty of stories about the bad apples in the bunch unloading sale items at full price or seeing just how high they can get an item in heavy demand. The cost of doing business rises every year and relief from state officials gets more and more far fetched.

Given the strict taxation, lack of banking options, and claimable exemptions cannabis stores face, most are forced by necessity, not greed, to create their own pricing structure based on a multiplier or percentage markup that becomes their golden ratio for how much something hits the sales floor at. 

It’s something we did in music retail when distributors increased the cost of goods while holding that list price the same but there were also plenty of companies for whom SRP represented a way to help create opportunity and temper expectations.

Instead of some bold assertion, SRP should come into the cannabis industry as a way for brands to state their worth and for retailers to gauge their possibility of success. We might not need to go as far as putting the price onto the packaging but starting with listing it on your website or in your literature just like these larger companies do might just be a good start.

Giving a grower or maker some power in that conversation doesn’t mean a retailer is going to adhere to it, (we are talking about a suggestion after all), but like I said before, it opens up a dialogue where both parties get to express what they think the response would be with regards to a location and/or its clientele, or market viability. 

Taxation and regulation create an often difficult and challenging landscape for us to work in. Making something like SRP go across the board is a thing that would take time and customization for our industry, along with someone willing to make the long jump (though it seems there’s already a brand aiming for the blue ribbon there). 

Regardless, there’s an overdue need for brands to have a voice in this regard. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll see an ad saying they’re slashing prices on eighths, and you’ll know whose price they mean.

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  1. This is one of my biggest challenges with NorCal.buzz. There is no MSRP and worse, some stores advertise OTD pricing. Add in the issues with med card holders not getting taxed and pricing is COMPLICATED.

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