Lupin 2023

Uniprix CEO bullish on drug chain’s prospects

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ST. LEONARD, Quebec — As a drug store customer, Philippe Duval, president and chief executive officer of Uniprix Group, was always surprised by how little the trade class had changed for decades.

Uniprix Duval_Daniele Henkel_launch

Philippe Duval with Daniele Henkel at the Uniprix Daniele Henkel TO GO launch event.

“The reason I came out of retirement in February to head up the Uniprix Group was the fact that there were so many new ways to shake up the sector,” Duval said. “As soon as I arrived, we announced our exclusive partnership with Daniele Henkel — a successful businessperson who in the last four years has become a popular household name in Quebec as one of the ‘dragon’ investors on Quebec’s version of ‘Dragons’ Den.’”

Henkel is Canada’s therapeutic and medical health and beauty leader, promoting nonaggressive and noninvasive beauty solutions. Now Daniele Henkel TO GO, in partnership with Uniprix, is opening up anti-aging and well-being to a wider public in a special express version.

At select Uniprix stores, men and women can relax and enjoy 10- to 30-minute sessions for face, décolleté or hands in a freestanding module with a comfortable lounge chair, leaving their skin radiant and rejuvenated. Uniprix beauty consultants certified and trained at the Daniele Henkel Academy evaluate customers’ skin and prescribe and provide targeted, express anti-aging treatments.

“It’s just the first in a whole series of new ideas the Uniprix Group is bringing in to the retail pharmacy sector,” Duval said.

But times are tough for Quebec pharmacists, he added. “On the one hand, the Quebec government has just authorized them to provide an expanded range of services for their patients, which should be great. But on the other hand, that same government has just imposed drastic cuts to their incomes.”

He said Quebec pharmacists are also getting some bad press, instead of being recognized as among the most accessible health care professionals and for their motivation to improve their patients’ well-being.

Uniprix Daniele Henkel area

Inside select Uniprix stores, the Daniele Henkel TO GO stations feature lounge chairs for customers to enjoy 10- to 30- minute skin care sessions.

Duval, who succeeded longtime Uniprix CEO François Castonguay, is former president of the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), a government-owned corporation responsible for the sale of alcoholic beverages in the province. He said that his experience with SAQ positioned him well for his new role at Uniprix.

“Let’s step back for a second and ask ourselves, ‘Who are the consumers who are buying alcoholic beverages?’ Easy answer: The exact same people who shop at drug stores,” he explained, drawing a demographic parallel.

“Now I know consumers, wherever in the province they may be. This is partly because my idea of a good time is combing through the most rarified sales data and talking it all over with the experts around me, and partly because I’m a very hands-on manager,” he said. “It’s normal for me — almost like a hobby — to watch, listen to and even question consumers when they’re about three feet and three seconds away from a buying decision.”

Uniprix, which operates under a franchise model, has a retail network of 376 drug stores across Quebec under the banners Uniprix, Uniprix Clinique and Uniprix Santé. Duval said that in recent months he has been immersed in an industry that he’s getting to know “by leaps and bounds.”

“The challenges at points of sale and in e-commerce are enormous,” he said, “and consumer preferences continue to shift — faster than ever and in every possible direction.”


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