N.B. cannabis retailer lays off staffers as 'operational needs' become clear

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's cannabis retailer is laying off staff, saying it has a better understanding of "operational needs" three months after the historic legalization of recreational marijuana.

Cannabis NB said most of the about 60 layoffs involved people with seasonal contracts, but some are part-time or full-time employees.

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Spokeswoman Marie-Andree Bolduc said Thursday that despite supply challenges, operations have normalized at the 20 stores and they now understand the needs of each outlet.

"This decision is representative of normal new retail industry operations and long-term fiscal responsibility," she said in an email.

She said it's difficult to speculate whether the supply problems that have plagued cannabis retailers across the country were a factor.

"Supply issues may have contributed, however based on current traffic and interaction time with customers we are confident that even as supply continues to stabilize and we expand our portfolio, that our current team has the capacity to deliver the expected customer experience and education and manage store operations," she said.

Under the former Liberal government, New Brunswick had seen legalized cannabis as green gold — a chance to rake in profits and create production and retail jobs, with a community college program developed for cannabis technicians.

Bolduc said some of the laid-off staff may be rehired in the future.

"In preparing for the launch of the new legal cannabis industry, Cannabis NB wanted to ensure that a well-trained, qualified team was built that was large enough to set up the retail locations, fill the work schedules and deliver the right customer experience and education based on demand," she said.

"The teams and roles were structured to allow flexibility in the delivery of the customer experience needed and manage expectations that staffing of stores may change after launch."

Bolduc says they'll be releasing quarterly sales figures at the end of January.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Nova Scotia is not looking at any layoffs as a result of supply shortages, said provincial Finance Minister Karen Casey.

The province has only 12 shops run by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, which gets its supply from licensed producers based in Nova Scotia, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta.

Casey said a second Nova Scotia producer has recently gotten approval from Health Canada, which has helped with the supply crunch, while a third is waiting for approval.

"We were anticipating a greater demand over the Christmas season that we did receive, so it helped to balance that (shortages) out," said Casey.

She said unlike New Brunswick, her province did not lock employees into contracts beginning with the original roll out date of July 1. Casey said Nova Scotia stores are also staffed by some permanent part-time workers.

"So we are not subjected to the situation that they (New Brunswick) are, where they have employees and no work and have to lay them off," she said.

Casey said the fact Nova Scotia operates with fewer stores has been a factor in retaining jobs.

"I think that approach has allowed us to better manage supply demand and not have to look at layoffs."

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