A month after opening its 13th location, on Vancouver Island, Quality Foods has launched the first of what could be several pharmacies inside its stores.
"We're strong grocers first and foremost," the company's marketing director Rob MacKay told Canadian Grocer. "But having a drugstore inside our store adds more value and convenience to our customers' shopping experience."
The new pharmacy is located inside the Quality Foods store in Port Alberni, a town of nearly 18,000 people that is located in the heart of Vancouver Island.
It is a pharmacist-owned franchise of the Medicine Shoppe Canada, a 200-store subsidiary of McKesson Canada, a distributor of branded, generic and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and healthcare products that earlier this month purchased the Rexall chain.
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According to MacKay, Quality Foods' trio of founding partners—Ken Schley, Noel Hayward and John Briuolo—first discussed a possible partnership with the Medicine Shoppe a decade ago.
"For whatever reason it didn't happen then," said MacKay. "But the idea resurfaced and they started talking again recently."
He said the grocery floor and floral section of the Port Alberni store were "reconfigured" in recent weeks to make space for the pharmacy within the store's existing footprint. MacKay called the new in-store pharmacy "a natural fit" with the surrounding retail environment.
Schley, who is Quality Foods president, said his company is "thrilled to offer Alberni Valley residents the opportunity to take advantage of this unique arrangement between Quality Foods and The Medicine Shoppe."
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He added that new pharmacy owner Larry Johannessen, who owns two other locations in Port Alberni, "are well-known and respected in the community, and we see it as one more way that our combined offerings will add to our customers' shopping experience."
MacKay, too, said he was struck by how many shoppers knew Johannessen on opening day. "It was like old-home week," quipped MacKay.
He added that Quality Foods is considering introducing Medicine Shoppe locations in their chain's other stores. "We're going to see how this one goes first," said MacKay. "But it certainly gives us food for thought as we are in the process of updating our older stores."
Quality Foods was founded in 1982. The company notably launched the first electronic grocery loyalty program in Canada in 1991 (called the Q-Card), and the country's first full online shopping service in 1997.
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Last month's opening of its newest store in Victoria —its second in the provincial capita—brought the chain's number of employees to more than 1,000.
“The Quality Foods story is a fantastic tale of inspiration, perseverance and collaboration between partners,” Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers' president Tom Barlow told Canadian Grocer after that store opening.
The Medicine Shoppe is one of several McKesson's franchised drugstore banners. Others include Guardian and I.D.A.
Earlier this month McKesson purchased the Rexall pharmacy chain from Edmonton-based Katz Group.