New Brunswick

Cannabis NB sales getting higher, outpacing Atlantic counterparts

As the Province of New Brunswick evaluates proposals to unload Cannabis NB to a private-sector operator, the agency continues to show steady improvement in its operations.

Government identified 8 potential private operators to take cover Cannabis NB

Cannabis NB saw a surge in sales last fall, according to new data released by Statistics Canada. (Julia Wright / CBC)

As the Province of New Brunswick evaluates proposals to unload Cannabis NB to a private-sector operator, the agency continues to show steady improvement in its operations.

According to figures released by Statistics Canada on Friday, New Brunswick's legal cannabis retailer recorded sales of $3.47 million in November, a 4.8 per cent increase over October and 14.6 per cent better than last November.

None of the other Atlantic provinces posted a month-over-month increase in sales in November, according to Statistics Canada — with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador each recording sales declines and sales remaining flat in Prince Edward Island.

Cannabis NB has been offering lower pricing options for consumers in recent months, which it credits for the growth in business.

"We've been able to offer competitive pricing, with our per gram price going as low at $3.30, tax in, on promotions," said Cannabis NB spokesperson Tom Tremblay in an email Friday, explaining the improvement.

"This has attracted new customers and more consistent traffic in our stores."  

Cannabis NB has slashed prices from when it first opened in October 2018 on products like loose bud and pre-rolled units. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

This week, Cannabis NB was advertising loose cannabis buds for as little as $5.33 per gram on selected brands if a consumer buys 15 grams at a time. That's 33 per cent cheaper than its lowest price offering — $8 per gram for 15 grams — during the week it first opened in October 2018. 

It's cheapest pre-rolled joints, which were once $7.50, now start at $5.

But it may be too little too late for the Crown corporation.

Province mulling private operator

Late last year, Finance Minister Ernie Steeves announced the province would privatize cannabis sales following poor results by Cannabis NB during its first fiscal year and, earlier this month, eight organizations were identified by the province as potential private operators.

Better financial results at Cannabis NB will not derail that process, but Steeves said if the province comes to believe keeping Cannabis NB is a better deal than disposing of it, that option will be considered.

Finance Minister Ernie Steeves said the government could still consider operating Cannabis NB if there isn't a compelling offer to take it over. (CBC)

"Should the negotiations fail to yield a compelling offer that we are satisfied with, government can walk away and continue to seek efficiencies with the current public sector model or look to another private sector model," said Steeves in a statement Friday about improving sales at Cannabis NB.

November's sales are the latest in a series of improving results for Cannabis NB, which should only get stronger.

In the last week of November, a police crackdown on "illegal" retailers in New Brunswick promised to shake free more customers for government stores and in December popular edible cannabis products, including chocolate, gummies and other candy products, began arriving for public sale.

Those point to stronger future sales, but it is unclear if the organization has become profitable yet.

Cannabis NB lost $12.5 million during its shortened first fiscal year that covered five and a half months ending on March 31, 2019.

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