An executive who led turnarounds at Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle reveals what the cannabis industry can learn from big retail brands

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An executive who led turnarounds at Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle reveals what the cannabis industry can learn from big retail brands

Peter Horvath knows a thing or two about building consumer brands. As the president of DSW, he led the shoe retailer’s initial public offering in 2005. Now, after stints in the c-suites of Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle — as well as serving as the CEO of a $1 billion defense contractor — he’s turning his attention to the cannabis industry.

As the CEO of Green Growth Brands, an Ohio-based cannabis retailer founded in March of this year, Horvath is working to build a brand focused on the health and wellness side of the burgeoning industry.

According to Horvath, the company is unique among cannabis retailers because of its executive team with decades of experience across consumer brands like American Eagle and Bath & Body Works.

“We’re going to apply what we know to a brand new business, and the upside is tremendous,” Horvath said in an interview with Business Insider.

The startup recently inked a deal to run and operate a dispensary brand in Nevada called The Source, and it’s also rolling out lines of beauty products like lotions and lip balms that contain CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that’s thought to have an array of health benefits.

Backed by the billionaire Schottenstein family of the American Eagle fortune, Green Growth Brands recently closed an oversubscribed $65 million funding round. Horvath is preparing to take the company public through a reverse takeover of Xanthic Biopharma, a company listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange, to capitalize on some of the frenzy around cannabis stocks.

“It’d be foolish to sit on the sidelines and use our own cash to grow our business,” Horvath said.

Horvath is taking what he learned at Victoria’s Secret and applying it to the fledgling cannabis industry.
REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

‘Like going into your kitchen and getting coffee’

Horvath has big plans for the startup. “We want using CBD to be like going into your kitchen and getting coffee,” he said.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a hot topic among the biggest consumer packaged goods companies, many of which are either exploring or have pursued deals in the sector as regulations ease and stigmas lessen. Coca-Cola and Constellation Brands are two of the biggest names to have publicly signaled interested in the sector (and in Constellation’s case, sign multi-billion dollar deals).

What Horvath sees on the market doesn’t impress him. He said he sees lots of stores “pretending to be Starbucks,” but the reality is, “they’re never going to master that.”

“I think people open a [cannabis] store and all they need is some garbage bags and a rake and they get the cash,” Horvath said.

“The thing is, that’s not going to be the case in the future,” Horvath said. “Every day there’s more stores and every day there’s a store that’s closer to your house, and it may have the same products for cheaper.”

To Horvath, it’s about having a management team with experience “winning customers.”

“It’s price and it’s product, but it’s even more than that,” Horvath said. “It’s people, it’s position, it’s place, it’s all those things. And you can’t just read about it, you have to have done it.”

Horvath said that based on his team’s experience with beauty products, it’s never a good idea to make men’s products — they don’t make nearly as much money. That’s why most of Green Growth’s product offerings are going to be geared towards woman.

For example, Horvath pointed to Seventh Sense, a CBD-focused beauty and wellness brand within Green Growth Brand’s suite.

“Most guys are going to discover this product in their girlfriend’s showers,” Horvath said. “That’s a marketing opportunity.”

“If you make it for her, he’ll eventually buy it,” Horvath said.

In the future, Horvath expects CBD and cannabis products to pop up on the radars of boardrooms everywhere — from beauty startups like Glossier, to retail behemoths like Amazon.

“You’ve got to skate to where the puck is going, not where it is,” Horvath said.

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