Inside This Issue - Opinion
Shoppers Drug Mart among industry elite
August 20th, 2012
by Jeffrey Woldt
With all the hoopla surrounding the 50th anniversary of the discount store format in 2012, the arrival at the same milestone by another retailer that is among the best of its kind has been largely overshadowed.
Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM) is celebrating half a century as an iconic presence on the Canadian retailing scene.
Founded in 1962 by Murray Koeffler, a Toronto pharmacist, the company is built on the associate concept, which yokes the commitment to patient care and entrepreneurial energy of independent pharmacy with the robust capabilities of a corporate entity. Growing outward from its base in the metropolitan area, the retailer opened its first store outside Ontario, in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 1968, and debuted in western Canada two years later with an outlet in Winnipeg.
SDM became the largest pharmacy chain in the country a year later when it acquired Vancouver-based Cunningham Drug Stores. The company reached the 200-store mark in 1974, when it launched its first national ad campaign. Today the chain comprises 1,215 full-service drug stores, 56 clinic dispensaries and 63 Shoppers Home Health Care outlets.
More impressive than SDM’s steady expansion (it now accounts for about 20% of drug store sales in Canada) is what lay behind it. From the beginning Koeffler and the men who succeeded him have been innovators. Koeffler created Life Brand, the foundation of the retailer’s strength in private label merchandise, as early as 1962. The line now encompasses more than 2,000 health and beauty products and has been supplemented by other store brands, including Quo, the first cosmetics collection of its kind in Canada, bringing SDM’s total private label offerings to more than 7,500 items. Staffed by impartial advisers, the retailer’s beauty departments are distinguished by an extensive assortment of high-end cosmetics, fragrances and skin care products unavailable at U.S. drug chains.
The stores themselves are among the finest in the trade class, effectively melding health, beauty and convenience offerings in an appealing shopping environment.
Canadians are now being asked to share their experiences with SDM through the years on a Web portal. The responses, part of an anniversary celebration that will move into high gear in September, are sure to confirm the consensus of industry observers: SDM is one of the world’s top drug chains.