The new president of Cannabis NB – New Brunswick’s Crown-owned cannabis retailer – says it will be next year or more before the operation can be profitable.
Patrick Parent says the money-losing agency is like any start-up and needs time to mature.
“We are looking at operational improvements. We do recognize there was a price gap with the illicit market. We are aggressively addressing that. I think if you were to go into stores today there are very competitive products. In fact in some cases it is more competitive than in the illegal stores,” Parent said in an interview in his Fredericton office Friday.
“I don’t disagree that we need to accelerate the road to profitability. Everyone would agree that we have to return a profit to the taxpayers of New Brunswick,” he said. “The best way we can do that is ignore external noise and distractions and really focus on improving the business every day.”
The agency, with its 20 stores across the province, lost almost $12 million in its first six months and continues to bleed red ink, although sales are on the rise.
It was announced last week that second quarter losses for the current year were $1.5 million.
The previous Liberal government pitched legalized cannabis as an economic windfall and sought to make the province an industry leader. The University of New Brunswick even named the first cannabis health research chair in the country.
More recently, Progressive Conservative Premier Blaine Higgs has said he’ll look at all options including privatization to stem the financial losses.
Last October, then Cannabis NB president Brian Harriman said with overhead and start-up costs he hoped the 20 stores would at least break even in their first fiscal year.
Parent – who became president and CEO of Cannabis NB and NB Liquor in September – said many changes have been made to improve product pricing and supply.
“We are getting to the point of offering the right products at the right price point,” he said.
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