Small pharmacies may escape Target Canada’s crosshairs

Target Canada’s entrance into Mississauga will hurt pharmacy chains like Shoppers Drug Mart more than local drugstore retailers, said independent pharmacy owner Richard Diniz.

The owner of Hooper’s Pharmacy on Lakeshore Road East said the new stores won’t significantly impact independent establishments like his because Target is taking over former Zellers locations, many of which also had pharmacies. “I don’t see really any difference,” said Diniz.

Diniz said he could understand chains like Jean Coutou and Shoppers Drug Mart being concerned with Target taking away market share because their marketing and store strategies are similar. But he said independents are less concerned about their sales being affected. “We’re not really competing at the same level,” he said, citing a large difference in locations, marketing and promotion budgets.

For independents, Diniz said the advantage always came down to better customer service. “That’s the things you do day in day out people really have to experience,” he said. “That’s really how small business survives.”

Diniz, who has owned his pharmacy for 28 years, said companies like Target see their pharmacy as simply another service in their large stores. “It’s like Wal-Mart,” he said. “They have a hair-cutting place, travel agency and as many services as possible to get as many people because that’s what they do.”

Diniz, 55, said independents are vying for the same customers when it comes to filling prescriptions, but the larger stores have so much more merchandise in the front shop that they need many more customers. “Yes, we compete on some level but not head-to-head,” he said.

When conversing with colleagues and friends in the industry, Diniz said he’s had discussions about how Target may also become a threat in terms of staff recruitment. “They try to recruit right away from employers in the same field,” he said. Pharmacists that might have been interested in opening a Shoppers might be drawn to Target’s franchising package, Diniz said.

Diniz also pointed to Shopper’s success in drawing cosmetics market share away from department stores, an example of larger outfits that might be more threatened by Target than mom-and-pop shops.

Diniz is looking to recent moves by the McGuinty government that will reimburse pharmacists for services like flu shots and renewing prescriptions in hopes that it will allow independent retailers to keep their edge in the customer service area.

“It’s a positive thing to start,” he said.

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