I’d like some veggies with my vitamins

Thoughts on Shoppers Drug Mart now carrying fresh foods.

With the purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart by Loblaws, a recent test to sell fresh foods at thestore_ShoppersDrugMart drugstore chain has been underway. This won’t be the first time a store attempted to straddle categories and stock a wider array of goods than their core. After all, Canadian Tire sells kitchenware and car audio under the same roof. Alot has been written about whether this will be a success or fall on its face. Primary benefits being – SDM is open late hours, some even 24/7 and the chain is known for good quality. So I guess if you feel like grilling some sirloin at 2am, Shoppers is your best bet.

Trying to get people to buy fresh food at a chain associated primarily with medications might be a bit of a stretch although critics say it could be done. Packaged foods, sure. Frozen foods, could (maybe) work. Fresh foods? I think that crosses the line. Starting off with the obvious question of “how are you different from the competition?”. Walmart for instance – is open late hours and specializes in being a one stop shop, with unbeatable prices.
While trial and error might be the way to go when it comes to retail, there are a couple of consumer insights as to why the brand would be wise to leave fresh with Freshco or in this case, Loblaws.

  1. Medication is the motive, fresh foods might be happenstance
    Yes, Shoppers stocks alot more than prescriptions. However, the consumer mindset when walkfresh veging into a Shoppers Drug Mart is to walk out with either medicine, toiletries or a bag of chocolate to feed a late night craving. While I’m there, sure I might pick up a bag of cherries if its being sold, but that’s not what I’m going in there looking for. Also, Shoppers is an in and out kind of place – not a Loblaws, where one stops to browse. Shoppers is more like a QSR trying to enter the sit-down restaurant category. They don’t have the physical space (not all locations) nor the brand positioning to be viewed as a meat and veggie retailer.
  1. buying meatsConvenience’ and ‘fresh’ don’t jive
    Shoppers is known for convenience. It’s the place you can count on at midnight when you’re out of green tea and can’t fall asleep. Or if you’re in a hurry and can’t deal with long line-ups that Walmart is sure to have. However, when it comes to fresh foods, there’s a defined pause in your aisle browsing. You have to stop to examine the bananas and check the meat’s texture to lb. ratio. There’s a disassociation there that might be difficult to overcome.
  2. Credibility countsorganic
    Today’s label-reading consumer is conscious of what they consume. Non GMO, free range, certified organic and grass-fed are terms actively sought. Sure this might not be the market Shoppers is interested in, but if they did carry these products, how much credibility does a drug chain have in this department?
  3. Brand stretching and risk of failure
    The fresh foods category is always going through product recall, especially meats and vegetables. If Shoppers aims “to be the leader in helping Canadians discover a healthier outlook on life” as per their mission statement – I believe it’s important to steer clear of categories that could damage this reputation.

The rules of retail are always changing and what might seem illogical, sometimes gets adopted as the new normal. As Martin Lindstrom says in his book ‘Buyology’: “But like it or not, all of us consistently engage in behavior for which we have no logical or clear-cut explanation.”

I might be over thinking this one, but I’d love to hear your views and perceptions. Will tonight’s steak and potato dinner be picked up at your local drug store?


6 thoughts on “I’d like some veggies with my vitamins

  1. Nice one wes :). I believe it is actually a good idea. Under the brand purpose of ” to be the leader in helping Canadians discover a healthier outlook of life” for Shoppers to actually stock fresh foods.

    “When I go to buy drugs, I am open to buying fruits & even some vegetables”. As I feel that I need to add to my health. Somehow most of us feel that allopathic medicines have their own side effects and hence you want to consume a bit of natural food to compensate / cope-with.

    Also fresh is meeting convenience and always has – though I buy your point of naturals ill-fitting in a chemicals/pharma world. Hope which ever this brand is has actually changed its retail semiotics to manage both these worlds and their retail ambience does not look as clinical and cold as some of the pharma chains look.

    Nice one overall – enjoyed reading this 😀

    BTW: a picture of the store would help!

    • Thanks Kalyan! Picture added post reading your comment.
      I like your take on balancing medication with fresh foods – but I think that would count as an impulse purchase, not one you primarily go in there for. If you’ve pre-thought of buying some fruits/veggies, you’d go into a Walmart (they have a pharmacy section too) as prices are cheaper. Walmart gets away with this “polygamous stocking” as they’re known to retail everything under the sky.

      Fresh might be meeting convenience in other areas but yes, the ambience comes into play. The semiotics of Shoppers isn’t very clinical (besides medicine, they carry personal care,beauty,canned goods and frozen foods) – but there’s a perception barrier when it comes to fresh foods. Ah, guess time will tell if this works out.

  2. So glad to see you’re writing again! Keep it up 🙂

  3. DP beat me to it …… so glad to see you’re writing again! Enjoyed the insight and I agree with your point of view … I think Shoppers should stay clear of adding “fresh” to their lineup!!

    Continue to keep the juices flowing …

    • Thanks Mel!! Great to see you still on the reading list, motivates me to keep my fingers to the keyboard. Yea they launched a test run in Sept, but people are apprehensive. Also, with their high prices, fresh foods is not a category they can compete in.

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