By Mario Toneguzzi
Shoppers Drug Mart has launched a pilot project in a standalone Leaside neighbourhood store, providing customers with a new resource to help them take charge of the way they age.
Wellwise, a first-of-its kind retail experience with specialized products and expert advice to help Canadians stay active and well, opened its first location on Saturday at 65 Wicksteed Avenue in Toronto, in 2,500 square feet of selling space.
“About a year ago we were doing our strategic business review and we were conducting a fair bit of consumer research and really what came out of that consumer research is that Canadians, our customers, were looking for a better shopping experience – a better experience within the stores,” says Scott Wilks, vice-president of Home Health Care for Shoppers Drug Mart.
“They didn’t want to age just comfortably anymore. They really talked about taking control of their aging as they go forward.”
Shoppers Drug Mart says the store will offer a range of specially-selected products and specialized services that will empower residents to make their everyday life healthier, easier and more active. That includes everything from mobility aids to sleep therapy to low-impact fitness and physiotherapy products to nutrition to supports and braces to tools and gadgets for everyday living.
Specialized services include an on-site dietician, professional fitters for compression products and supports and braces, as well as suggestions for home modifications.
The store is designed to be modern, interactive and easy to navigate.
“It’s a very vibrant neighbourhood,” says Wilks of Leaside. “It’s one where the demographics are very positive and we felt there’s a real need for our store and services in that area.”
“(The store) was really designed around the customer. It’s a very bright, vibrant-looking store as you walk in. We focused on navigation to make it easy . . . It’s really shifting the thinking from illness to wellness and keeping people active. There’s a lot of studies out there that say that if you stay active you live longer. So a lot of things in the store promote that activity.”
The pilot store, for example, will be running weekly walking classes with people using urban poles.
But the store won’t only be for older people. The active living section will have everything from yoga mats to light Pilates weights, as well as supports and braces for workers and weekend warriors.
Shoppers Drug Mart says Wellwise will also launch this fall an e-commerce site offering convenient direct-to-home deliveries. Products will be available to customers across Canada.
“It’s an important complement to the overall strategy and it will launch later in October,” says Wilks.
The e-commerce strategy fits nicely into trends in society with the explosion in retail sales through this avenue and also providing convenient shopping for an aging population.
“One of our key target audiences is caregivers. One in five Canadians today are caregivers for older adults. Often they’re not in the same city, the same province. So having an e-commerce option . . . you can have these products delivered straight to their homes. Your mother doesn’t have to go out on a cold, rainy night in Toronto in mid-November to get something. It just gives that comfort,” says Wilks.
Will the bricks and mortar component of the store eventually expand to other locations?
“We’re really treating this as a pilot. We’re going to make sure we get it right. So really our first step is to make sure we get the bricks and mortar done right and really get the feedback from our customers whether this is the right direction and where we’re going and then launching the e-commerce part,” says Wilks.
“We’ll take a measured to approach to how we move forward.”
*All photos were provided courtesy of Shoppers Drug Mart.
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.