Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Loblaw Companies Limited, is the licensor of full-service retail drug stores operating under the name Shoppers Drug Mart® (Pharmaprix® in Québec). Established in 1962 by Toronto pharmacist Murray Koffler, the Company has expanded to a network of more than 1,307 Shoppers Drug Mart/Pharmaprix stores across Canada.

In the early 1920s, Leon Koffler established a pharmacy on College Street in Toronto, Ontario. When he died in 1941, his teenage son, Murray, took over the business. The two Koffler’s Drug Store locations used the self-service model of supermarkets: customers could pick products from shelves rather than wait for a clerk.

Responding to the growth of Toronto’s suburbs after the Second World War, Murray Koffler started his first suburban store at York Mills Shopping Plaza in North York in 1953. But to grow the business, he initiated the franchising system so that each store was owned by a licensed pharmacist. In exchange for a royalty fee, each store received advertising and marketing support.

Kofzug still maintained its primary product and connoted the supermarket model. Within a few years, Koffler rebranded all the company’s stores as Shoppers. Koffler also wrote the chain’s early advertising. His ads stressed that Shoppers’ low overhead costs and bulk buying practices allowed the stores to pass savings on to customers. He revived Life Brand, which he had briefly used for a line of men’s toiletries during the late 1940s, as Shoppers’ private label.

In 1968, Shoppers Drug Mart merged with the Plaza Drug Stores chain and grew from 19 to 52 stores. The first stores outside Ontario opened in Moncton, New Brunswick in 1969. Shoppers entered Western Canada in 1971, buying 87 Cunningham Drug Stores in Alberta and British Columbia.

In 1972, Shoppers partnered with supermarket and discount department store operator Steinberg Inc. to launch the Pharmaprix chain in Quebec (Steinberg owned its portion until 1980). Shoppers expanded into the United States in 1974, when it opened a store in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

In 1978, Shoppers and its 364 stores were sold to Imasco Ltd., a Montreal-based conglomerate whose core business was Imperial Tobacco. Koffler remained with Shoppers as its chairman until 1986, when he became honorary chairman. In 1999, Imasco’s majority owner, British American Tobacco, bought out the company and began breaking up its assets.

In 2000, it sold Shoppers to a group including the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and global investment firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital for $2.55 billion. The new owners took the company public, listing it on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol SC in 2001.

In March 2014, George Weston Ltd. Acquired Shoppers Drug Mart for $12.4 billion and delisted it from the TSX. Shoppers became a separate division of Loblaw and began to stock President’s Choice and No Name products alongside its Life brand items, as well as more fresh foods in select stores. Note that the deal helped Loblaw more than double its profit in the last quarter of 2014 compared to the same quarter the previous year.

Shoppers Drug Mart has successfully leveraged its leadership position in pharmacy and its convenient store locations to capture a significant share of the market in front store merchandise, including over-the-counter medications, health and beauty aids, cosmetics and fragrances, seasonal products and everyday household essentials.

These conveniently located stores are owned and operated by the Company’s licensed Associate-owners who have helped build a brand that is synonymous with exceptional service, value and trust. The Company also licenses or owns more than 49 medical clinic pharmacies operating under the name Shoppers Simply Pharmacy® (Pharmaprix Simplement Santé® in Québec) and five luxury beauty destinations operating as Murale™.

Financial Requirements of Opening a Shoppers Drug Mart Franchise

Aside from becoming a licensed pharmacist, there are little or no financial requirements needed to become a Shoppers Drug Mart franchisee. However, since they don’t require the standard $200,000 or $300,000 initial investment like other franchises, it’s worth your while to compare the educational costs to become a certified pharmacist to the cost of opening a basic fast-food franchise.

Steps to Open a Shoppers Drug Mart Franchise

Note that to start on the path to franchise ownership, you have to first consider your goals, experience, available resources and to what extent you share the business and management philosophy of the franchise operation you’re considering. You will also have to look at the market opportunities available from the franchisor to determine whether you should acquire an existing franchise location or open a new one.

With an existing location, you and the franchisor will work through the necessary contracts to secure ownership. But starting a new location can be more complex. Shoppers Drug Mart understands that its responsibility to franchisees is to provide full business, brand and patient care support. If you want to join the Shoppers Drug Mart family, below are steps to consider!

  1. Develop a full business plan—including legal, regulatory, operations and marketing direction. The core focus is on financial performance, with the goal of improving expense, inventory and accounts receivable (A/R) management.
  2. Perform a market analysis.
  3. Assess revenue potential based on patient population, provider mix and area competition.
  4. Work with a real estate firm to scout retail locations and identify the ideal one.
  5. Implementing business operations: including store layout, staffing, inventory management, workflow management and more.
  6. Market your store, from pre-opening activities forward.

Meanwhile, a particular focus—easily overlooked—is community engagement. Have it in mind that to become the healthcare destination in your community, you won’t have to spend all your time behind the counter. Instead, visit local providers and caregivers to talk about your broad array of patient care services.

Conclusion

There are as many reasons to become a franchise owner as there are pharmacists who do it. But as unique as each situation is, they all share some common themes. Shoppers Drug Mart is a wholly owned subsidiary of Loblaw Companies Limited, which itself is a subsidiary of George Weston Limited.

It operates drugstores, pharmacies, medical supply stores and beauty boutiques. Its retail chains include Shoppers Drug Mart, Pharmaprix, Shoppers Simply Pharmacy, Pharmaprix Simplement Santé, Wellwise and Murale.

Ajaero Tony Martins