When opportunity knocks, Satnam Lalli answers. In the fall of 2013 this pharmacist/owner had the chance to take over 2,500 square feet of space in a busy shopping mall at the centre of a vibrant community in Victoria, B.C. and transform Pharmasave Broadmead into a full-fledged destination drugstore.
By Talbot Boggs
“We are in a neighbourhood of mostly middle-income professionals in the 35 to 55 age demographic who have disposable income but not a lot of time,” he explains. “They want top brand products, but they don’t want to stand in line to get them. We already had good product lines and categories that our customers wanted, but we didn’t have the space to fully develop and present them. This gave us the opportunity to really do them properly and meet the needs of our customer base.”
Over the next year, Lalli and his business and life partner Andrea Hyndman invested $1.2 million to completely transform the store into a 10,600 sq. ft. shopping experience that has wowed existing and new customers. They went online and studied what pharmacies in Europe were doing in terms of design and features of their cosmetic sections and studies trends in North American retailers like Nordstrom and Holt Renfrew. With the assistance of Pharmasave’s design and store planning team, they brought in and expanded their offering of Guerlain, Orlane, Elizabeth Arden and other premier cosmetic brands and set them in customized displays.
They transformed their jewellery and accessory area to include custom lines like Kameleon and Hillberg & Berk, and added a new 72-linear foot “fashion alley” featuring clothing, purses, men’s shaving and skin care products and other accessories, as well as yoga mats, gear and accessories. They introduced a larger baby accessory and children’s clothing offering as part of their giftware area.
They also significantly expanded their home healthcare section to 450 sq. ft. Managed by a nurse, the section includes walkers and mobility devices (for rent weekly or monthly and as part of a rent-to-own program), a fitting room, compression stockings, and diabetes and foot care as well as adaptive clothing.
There were also significant improvements made to the dispensary. They expanded this area by about 150 sq. ft. to improve work flow and added a private counselling room, two stations for semi-private consultations, and increased the size of the compounding lab. They boosted their suite of services and now offer injections, weight management consulting and travel medicine, and to meet their customers’ desire for efficiency and convenience, they now have four check-out stations in the front store and one each in the dispensary and cosmetic areas.
The expansion was designed to create bright new space with lots of natural and LED lighting. The pharmacy now incorporates environmentally-friendly materials and processes, including low volatile organic compound paints, water-based adhesives, solid surface countertops, and luxury vinyl tile flooring with a high percentage of recycled material, all sourced by the Pharmasave design and store planning team to ensure the store met the eco-décor specs are mandated by Pharmasave.
In the months since the transformation was completed in October 2014, Lalli and Hyndman have seen an increase in sales in the front shop of between 20 and 35 per cent, much of that from the cosmetics, gift and HABA section, and an increase in volume in the dispensary of about six per cent. They now expect to see a return on their investment in two to three years instead of the five years anticipated in the original business plan.
“Initially, I thought 1,000 sq. ft. would be enough, but when 2,500 sq. ft. became available I took it. After we looked at everything we wanted to do, we came to the conclusion that we needed at least 10,000 sq. ft.,” Lalli explains. “If I could say anything about undertaking a project of this size and complexity it would be that if you’re going to do it, do it right. If you give your customers what they want and need, they’ll stick with you.”