Pharmacy U

Drug Trading’s banners stand with pride


Andrew Parkes has pharmacy in the blood. He began his career early, working the aisles at his father’s independent pharmacy, Parkes Standard Pharmacy, in Woodstock, Ont.

By Jane Auster

It’s fitting that he should have become president of Drug Trading in 2005, as his father’s pharmacy was a long-time Drug Trading member. When McKesson purchased Drug Trading (which manages banners I.D.A. and Guardian) two years ago, Parkes was there to help smooth the transition. As he says, “My father looked after people, and that was the key to his success. He went beyond their expectations, and that is my mandate here.”


What changes have I.D.A. and Guardian made to their pharmacy operations since the purchase by McKesson two years ago?

The acquisition of Drug Trading by McKesson made all the sense in the world, because we are an important customer.

The transition to McKesson was seamless, with an increase in the remarkable support from all McKesson and Drug Trading staff. Both parties were really enthusiastic. We created shared services with all of the banner organizations (PROXIM, I.D.A., Guardian and Medicine Shoppe Canada), such as pharmacy services, merchandising and marketing, which are 100 per cent focused on the needs and requirements of our members: independent pharmacy owners.

There are synergies across all the banners, which allowed us to create an infrastructure that is the most robust in pharmacy in Canada.

In the changing world of pharmacy, how do I.D.A. and Guardian position themselves in the competitive landscape?

The best way to explain this is through the story of a gentleman I met whose wife had recently suffered from a stroke. He was explaining to me the challenges of taking care of her once she left the hospital to return home: “When I came to take her home, they handed me a fistful of prescriptions at the hospital, and I wondered, ‘Now what am I going to do?’ I thought about the pharmacy at the end of our street. I walked in the store, the pharmacist-owner came out from behind the counter, sat down with me and said, ‘I will help you and be with you every step of the way.’”

That man will never go anywhere else. He had previously driven past the store but had never gone in. I am convinced that these stories happen many times a day across Canada in independent pharmacy — in urban, suburban and rural areas — all over the country.

How would you define what makes your banner program different?

I think ours is the most broadly based pharmacy program in Canada in terms of support to our members.

On the service side, in the marketplace, independent pharmacy has some advantages over corporate [stores] in the areas that matter to the consumer.

Our private label program, Atoma, is a defining program for our banner members. The focus is on health, wellness and hygiene, and all products are pharmacist-approved, so people can purchase these products with confidence.

We will also have a private brand called Diem, as in “carpe diem”. Diem is an engagement brand, which bundles professional services and companion products in order to help patients manage complex disease conditions or simply maintain an active lifestyle while aging.

What are McKesson’s expansion plans for the banners?

Our member stores represent 900 stores, the majority of which operate under the I.D.A and Drug Trading banners. They range in size from 500 to 10,000 sq. ft. Many of the smaller stores operate within medical buildings with some small stores within clinics. The average size store is 2,500 sq. ft.

We have different marketing and merchandising programs for these different formats and sizes of stores. We’ll grow by about 60 stores this year, a combination of pharmacists opening new stores and others rebranding as I.D.A. or Guardian.

How else are you branding?

The I.D.A. and Guardian logos are very well-known. We are going to emphasize I.D.A, Guardian as well as Atoma in all of our marketing across the country. There is greater consistency in our stores’ appearance across the country, however each store will always retain its own identity.

We are the “Official Pharmacy Supplier” of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am / Parapan Am Games, and the Atoma brand will be prominently featured during the Games. This is the first time a group of independent pharmacies, collectively under the Atoma label, have had this type of opportunity in Canada.

The visibility of our banner members and stores will be elevated, and they will be part of a national event with three times the number of participants as the Winter Olympics.

What other changes are on the horizon?

Are you aware of the 9,000 Points of Care: Improving Access to Affordable Healthcare report? One thousand of those 9,000 points of care are our members! We represent a very significant portion of pharmacy services in Canada. We at McKesson, Guardian and I.D.A are proud to offer a comprehensive program that allows our pharmacists to compete in the national forum, in the communities they serve. We’ve got some very exciting electronic tools coming in the next couple of months to assist our pharmacists to be better at providing the services at store level. We can’t dictate behaviour, but we can provide the tools to empower our pharmacists to fulfill their mandate of helping patients achieve better health. That is the key to sustainability and success!