Tara Deschamps | The Canadian Press
Nearly one third of Canadian cannabis retail employees hired over the last year already left their jobs and 24 per cent didn’t even make it past their first month, a new study says.
The data from marijuana analytics firm Headset released Thursday shows 56 per cent of these employees, known as “budtenders,” who worked at any point in the last 12 months have left their jobs.
The report covers workers in Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan between June 2021 and May 2022 — a period when cannabis businesses were carrying out layoffs and facing stiff competition as the number of pot shops soared during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jennawae McLean, the co-founder of Calyx + Trichomes, a cannabis store chain in Kingston, Ont. said budtenders leave their jobs for a variety of reasons.
Many are drawn to the sector because they think cannabis has a “cool factor,” but later realize the job can be as tedious and public-facing as other retail positions.
“It can sometimes feel like putting lipstick on a pig,” McLean said.
“It’s still retail at the end of the day. You still have to do customer service, and customer service is a very demanding job. Not everybody’s cut out for customer service.”
On top of the usual retail demands, cannabis workers also have to contend with additional regulations, checking customer identification and working in an environment that necessitates high security.
All of these factors compound with both new and old challenges seen across retailers, hospitality businesses and seasonal employers.
These sectors have long been known for high turnover and often attract students and other workers prone to swapping roles after shorter tenures.
“I don’t think that people start working in retail and expect that they’re going to retire there,” said McLean.
Now, they’re facing even more struggles when hiring new workers and trying to hang onto existing ones because the pandemic empowered people to seek more flexible jobs and roles where it is easier to work from home.
For every batch of 10 employees McLean hires, three stick around for a long time, but the remaining seven often leave after six months.
The Headset report said about seven per cent of Canadian budtenders hired between June 2021 and May 2022 quit during between their 30th and 59th day, six per cent departed between their 60th and 89th day and 10 per cent made it no further than 180 days.
Roughly seven per cent of people hired within that time frame left after the 180 day mark but before they reach one year and almost 46 per cent stayed.
The Headset report showed Alberta retailers tend to have slightly better retention among new employees, but lost a higher number of tenured employees than Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
The report also offered a glimpse at how turnover in the four provinces studied compares to the U.S., where Headset examined patterns in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and Washington pot shop workers.
It concluded Canada’s 56 per cent turnover rate was one per cent higher than the U.S.’s.