Expansion at Rexall Pharma Plus has focused not only on the reach of the Canadian drug chain's store base but also its retail concept, according to chief executive officer Frank Scorpiniti.

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New format helps expand Rexall's retail presence

April 23rd, 2014
by Alasdair McKichan

TORONTO – Expansion at Rexall Pharma Plus has focused not only on the reach of the Canadian drug chain's store base but also its retail concept, according to chief executive officer Frank Scorpiniti.

"The last three years have not just been about Rexall’s physical growth, though that has been strong," Scorpiniti explained, "but also about the way the stores have developed, with progress in presentation and with new categories, new products and new professional services delivered by our pharmacists."

Rexall CEO Frank Scorpiniti at the chain's new downtown Toronto store, opened late last month.

In early 2012, Katz Group Canada Ltd., corporate parent of Rexall Pharma Plus, announced a deal to sell its Drug Trading Co. banner pharmacy business and its Medicine Shoppe Canada franchise pharmacy business — together totaling more than 1,000 drug stores — to McKesson Corp. for about $920 million. Katz retained the corporate stores under the Rexall and Rexall Pharma Plus names.

That same year, 27 new store projects were initiated, including nine stores through new construction or relocation and 18 stores in southern Ontario that Rexall acquired from Dell Pharmacies. In 2013, 20 independent pharmacies were acquired, and 16 stores were relocated or constructed.

This year, the plan is to place even more emphasis on expansion and renewal, with a target of 30 new stores in operation by the year's end as a result of acquisition or relocation of established locations.

"By the end of this year, we should be close to a 500-store chain," Scorpiniti said.

Currently, Rexall has 454 pharmacies under the Rexall and Rexall Pharma Plus banners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories.

Recent growth and planned new stores will complement the company's strength in all of the regions west of Ottawa, according to Scorpiniti. Store design and presentation have been evolving all through this period of expansion.

The newest Rexall location, a 14,000-square-foot store at the busy intersection of Queen Street and University Avenue in downtown Toronto opened in late March, exemplifies the company's focus on providing a "healthy daily living" destination for the communities it serves.

"This store brings to customers the new categories, the new products and the new style of presentation that we have been working on," Scorpiniti said during a tour of the downtown Toronto store.

Also in late March, Rexall said existing stores in Hamilton, Gloucester and Dunville, Ontario, have been expanded and converted to the new healthy daily living concept.

Earlier in March, Rexall also opened a new store at Northgate Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. The 11,200-square-foot store, which gave Rexall two dozen locations in Edmonton, features a full-service pharmacy, nutrition consultation, vitamin therapy, free prescription delivery, a refrigerated grocery section and a cosmetics department.

And in February, Rexall opened the doors to an 11,500-square-foot store in St. Albert, Alberta, which marked the chain's first location in that community. Like the new Edmonton store, the St. Albert location sports the retailer's new store format that brings a modern look and feel and a focus on healthy living, with a similar complement of pharmacy and front-end offerings.

"We have aimed to have our stores be all about health and wellness," Scorpiniti noted. "We design our stores to make it easy for customers to see and have easy access to the products that will make them feel good every day, and the store should bring these products to life in its ­presentation."

To that end, Rexall has continued to grow is Be.better private brand. Launched just over a year ago, Be.better now encompasses more than 200 items focused on healthy living, including healthier snack options, environmentally friendly cleaning products, gluten-free vitamins, vegetarian probiotics and salon-quality hair and skin care products with natural oils such as oblipicha, argan oil and macadamia nut.

"In fact," Scorpiniti said, "we have introduced Be.better products with health and/or environmental virtues that have no equivalent branded products. We are, in essence, leading the pack."