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Retailers respond to COVID-19: Shoppers Drug Mart

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Shoppers Drug Mart proud of teams’ support for Canadians.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles on how retailers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

As COVID-19 continues to affect the lives of Canadians, our stores have been deemed an essential service and have been asked to remain open during these very uncertain times. While there have obviously been a lot of uncertainties, the stores and their teams have rallied around doing what was necessary, and what is right, to continue to serve our customers. But in order to help keep customers healthy, we need to keep our teams safe. So we’ve changed the ways our stores look and operate — practicing social distancing, limiting the number of people that come in, installing Plexiglas shields at cash registers and at the pharmacy, and providing certain protective equipment where we can get it, although it is in short supply.

Jeff Leger

We have also reduced store hours, as have many other retailers. We’ve done so to help give the teams a break, and also to provide an opportunity for the stores to sanitize and restock. To better support the store teams, we’ve launched a hiring website for the broader Loblaw family of companies. At this time, we know there are a lot of people out of work, and our store teams need help to fill roles for employees who are self-isolating or have had to take time off for any reason. We’re hoping maybe we can help each other out.

Like many others, we’re facing a number of challenges. Getting cleaning supplies and sanitizer at a time when the world is running short is among the top. However, it’s been great to see so many of our vendors step up to help our communities and stores — companies that have converted some of their manufacturing capacity to produce hand sanitizers. These amazing acts make a huge difference as we to try to make up for gaps and meet the massive demand.

Increased tensions and anxiety have become the new normal in society and in our stores. But, like the manufacturers mentioned above, I continue to see so many great examples of leadership and of kindness from our associate-owners, store teams and vendor community. I have also heard amazing stories of customers’ appreciation, especially for pharmacists going above and beyond to provide access to medications, renewing prescriptions or just providing information about what’s going on and the importance of preventative measures. There have also been lots of examples of our staff supporting some of the most vulnerable in our ­community.

Our company’s purpose is to help Canadians live life well. Shoppers Drug Mart has really taken that to heart, and the whole team continues to look at ways to make things a little better for everyone during this time. We’ve added new services, both online and in our stores.

Recently, we launched a virtual care service for patients to help relieve the current burden on the acute health care system, specifically emergency rooms and hospitals. The service allows Canadians to connect with a physician using a smartphone, tablet or computer. Consultations can be done through an app or website, by text, video or audio chat. Where virtual care is not funded by provincial governments, we are funding online physician consults at no cost to patients until April 3 by visiting www.shoppersdrugmart.ca.

We also continue to work closely with all the provincial governments and the federal government to expand the scope of practice for pharmacists. Federal legislation now allows a pharmacist to extend prescriptions for controlled substances to make sure that patients still have access to their medications, when they may not be able to access a clinic.

And while our pharmacy locations are considered essential, where we’re able to, we’ve redeployed teams or temporarily closed some of our nonessential operations. In Ontario, the telehealth system was overwhelmed. We quickly converted one of our call centers to help, and our nurse practitioners from the Beauty Clinics are supporting their team, talking to Ontarians looking for information or advice.

Finally, we’re doing our best to keep everyone informed about our journey as we go. You may have seen some of the communications that our executive chairman, Galen Weston, has sent to customers, as he feels it’s important for us to be transparent, and to let customers know what to expect in our stores.

It’s certainly been a challenging time but overall, we’re doing the best we can, and I’m so proud of the teams and how hard they’re working to support Canadians.

Jeff Leger is president of Shoppers Drug Mart.


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