Shoppers Drug Mart in Sooke:
expanding their retail footprint
MapleLine Magazine exclusive: November 24, 2010
Story and photo by Mary P. Brooke
SOOKE, BC. Shoppers Drug Mart will be opening their new Sooke store in mid-January 2011, tripling their floor space and bringing in a wider range of products and services, says Marcus Farmer, store manager of the current Shoppers outlet at the Evergreen Centre.
Presently under construction across the parking lot from the current store, the new store will be readied by a crew of 40 personnel that was recently hired on 5-week contracts to help setup the new store fixtures and stock the shelves.
"Our opening date is being coordinated with some new store openings in Vancouver," says Sooke Shoppers Drug Mart store manager Marcus Farmer, indicating a launch date somewhere between January 10 and 25, 2011. "Sooke will have a flyer exclusive to our store, for customers in the East Sooke to Port Renfrew region," says Farmer.
Marcus Farmer has worked at the present Sooke store for over 20 years, starting "from the ground up" (running the warehouse for a while and handling the cash register) while his father, pharmacist John Farmer (now retired), owned and ran the store from 1970 to 1988. The new store will show the evolution from the "old pharmacy footprint of the 1970s," says Marcus. "There will be modern selling stations and we'll be able to provide more services."
"Shoppers Drug Mart is an amazing Canadian success story," says Marcus. "Murray Koffler rolled out the associate concept in 1962 by which stores are independently owned by pharmacists who have direct responsibility for store operations while Shoppers head office provides the overall store programs," he explained. "There's the pride of individual ownership with the strength of the chain. Shoppers has the best loyalty program in North America," says Farmer. He explained that the penetration of a Shoppers Drug Mart points card is over 40% of the Canadian population (all ages) "It's a fantastic program because the rewards are immediate and tangible -- you can cash in on things the store that you are normally looking to buy," Farmer explained. The payouts are financed by the chain's promotional budgets and in part by manufacturer/supplier contributions.
The Sooke store manager is clearly excited about the expanded operations of his upcoming new store. There will be more products, more services and longer hours (8 am to 10 pm daily, 365 days a year). The product expansion includes more cosmetics and fragrances as well as electronics, plus convenience products such as milk and bread. The service expansion includes a retail post office and photofinishing.
Most notable to shoppers in Sooke is the disarray of the parking lot in the Evergreen Centre where the new Shoppers Drug Mart store is being built. That has caused disruption to other stores in the mall and to customers. Colliers Mall Management owns Evergreen Centre. Farmer says that by mid-December the parking at the centre should be more accessible, though the number of parking spaces in the overall mall will probably remain the same as before the construction of the new store.
"We hope the residents of Sooke are as excited as we are to see what we're going to be providing. We hope to bring a positive change to retail and the business landscape for the entire community," says Farmer. He will be keeping the same team of people that he has nurtured over the years: "I would not want to lose anyone. We plan to continue providing the same level of good service."
Of the 40 people hired on the short-term contracts to help set up and stock the new store, a few may stay on as part-time or full-time personnel. "If there are some shining stars we will see how things work out for them," says the store manager. "We hire with a 90-day trial period, which works for both the employee and the store. Not everybody wants to be in retail." Meanwhile, the 40 temporary employees will be assembling shelves into racks and unloading truckloads of merchandise for placement onto the shelves. "It's a big job, with lots of detail... a lot of moving things from point A to point B." Farmer says there will be up to as many as 35,000 to 40,000 items for sale in the store when it comes time for the grand opening.
The new building went through an approvals process with the District of Sooke earlier this year, during which the public had opportunities for input. In response to questions posed by those present at the District of Sooke Committee of the Whole meeting on April 26, 2010, Wensley Architecture Ltd. stated that they had met with Shoppers to change the synthetic stucco main entrance feature to instead be stained cedar at the entrance columns and centre canopy. They indicated that Shoppers said solar panels would not be workable on the roof. Apparently the issue of parking lot security was brought up at the April meeting; Shoppers indicated they want to ensure this area is safe, as it will be used for staff parking as well as for the public. "The area is well lit, and Shoppers has agreed to have a security camera on the building in this area," it was stated by architect Barry Weih in a letter to Council dated May 7, 2010.
The Sooke Shoppers Drug Mart store (#223 in the chain) is owned by Ms. Tina Kang whose name is listed on the Licensed Community Pharmacies Directory at the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia website at www.bcpharmacists.org .
Shoppers Drug Mart now has over 1,000 stores in Canada (expanding from the original 17 stores that opened in 1962). The 1,000th store was opened in 2007 in Don Mills, Ontario near the site of one of the first stores in the chain. Chain founder Koffler built the national network of pharmacies "without sacrificing the personal service of the local community pharmacist", as stated on the main Shoppers Drug Mart website. Koffler was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1977 and retired in 1986 at the age of 62. In 1991 he was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. MM
Photo: New Shoppers Drug Mart store under construction in Sooke, November 2010. Copyright 2010 MapleLine Magazine.
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