New cannabis store opens in Sudbury as queue of outlets waiting to open grows

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Greater Sudbury has its third cannabis retail outlet, after Happy Life on The Kingsway opened its doors last month.

The new outlet is one of 10 other stores that had been waiting for approval to open in Greater Sudbury. If all of them are allowed to operate, the city would be served by 12 cannabis stores – seven in the New Sudbury area, four in the South End and one on Riverside Drive near downtown.

In addition to Happy Life, High Life operates in New Sudbury and Canna Cabana is open in the South End.

Jessica Stoodely, manager of Happy Life, said they employ 11 full- and part-time staff at their Kingsway location.

"Word-of-mouth has really helped to propel sales," Stoodely said. "We're getting a lot of new people checking out the store every day, which is good."

She said the store is locally owned and is focused on trying to become the lowest-cost cannabis retailer to compete in what will be a crowed market.

"I think it's a great thing for consumers," Stoodely said. "They're flush with choice. The way that we are handling it is by giving them the best price that we possibly can. So we offer the same products as all the other competitors. In terms of price point, we've been able to offer them at a lower price than many of our competitors."

Rahul Sarugaser, managing director/equity research analyst with global financial services firm Raymond James, told CTV news in a story last year that producers are working to lower their costs as the marijuana market evolves in Canada.

Competition driving prices lower

"At the beginning, average prices were around $9 or $10 per gram," Sarugaser said. "There has been a real opening of the market in the last six months."

Prices have dropped recently to as low as $5 per gram, he said. That's a function of both oversupply, as well as producers refining their processes to get costs as low as possible.

"Some companies can make product for as low as 80 cents a gram, compared to $2 for higher-end producers," Sarugaser said.

"The ability of companies to grab market share has also driven down the price per gram for consumers. And that's generally seen as a good thing, because (legal producers) can compete head-to-head with the illicit markets."

After a painfully slow start – some stores have been waiting more than a year to open in Sudbury -- the province has quickened the pace of store openings across Ontario. An already slow pace was worsened by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent province-wide shutdown.

Now, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario says it is authorizing 30 cannabis stores a week to open.

"AGCO eligibility officers have been directly contacting all affected retail store applicants – starting with the ones that have the most imminent RSA (retail store authorizations) issuance dates – to advise them of the new anticipated issuance date of their store authorizations,” the province said in a news release Feb. 16.

To date, the province has received more than 1,630 applications to open cannabis stores in the province. A total of 489 applications have been approved and 430 cannabis stores are open in the province.

In northeastern Ontario, 12 stores have applied to open in North Bay (five have been allowed to open), eight in Sault Ste. Marie (four have been allowed to open) and eight in Timmins (two have been allowed to open).