Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review: Toronto Shopkeeper Shops Rexall

Discovering how the pharmacy chain is rebranding and reinventing itself.

Location: Rexall (63 Wellesley Street East, Toronto, ON)

Over the past decade while Shoppers Drug Mart has been growing and capturing market share, Rexall has seemed comparatively frumpy and dated. They rolled out a cheeky ad campaign poking fun at their main competitor's focus on beauty and proclaimed their motto "A Pharmacy First."

Rexall is now in a period of transformative change that is seeing it transition from dreary into a formidable drug store competitor. Toronto Shopkeeper visited one recently renovated store to discover the new Rexall.

Design: Gone is the tired old Rexall logo (which looked like it was designed by an over worked 1970s ad man) and in its place is a new streamlined typeface rendered in a soft turquoise colour that appears throughout the newly renovated and expanded Wellesley Street location.

The store has grown with the addition of a second storey and escalators rise past a new wall of windows. The effect is an airy open space that entices the customer upstairs. The ground floor features cosmetics, snacks, and home supplies. The second floor features the pharmacist, health and beauty items, and baby supplies.

Upstairs as you step off the escalator you enter a "Men's Zone," an iPad equipped counter with a focus on helping men navigate the selection of grooming products. Beyond this the pharmacist's counter anchors a wellness area that includes a naturopathic and homeopathic section. The fixtures are clean and sleek and the store is well lit and easy to navigate.

Merchandise: Earlier this year Rexall launched a new range of private label products called Be.Better, a collection it says is "designed to help Canadians live, feel and be better." Be.Better items include vitamins and supplements, household products, beauty products, and snacks. The packaging is consistent with the new Rexall branding. Other private brands include Nosh & Co. (snacks and beverages) and Creation's Garden (a natural line of personal care products).

The pharmacy area features an impressive selection of national and private brand vitamins and the natural wellness area provides an accessible alternative to a health food store.

Also found are all the brands you would expect to find in a pharmacy from Pampers diapers to Axe deodorant. While the ground floor features many mass market beauty brands you won't find the prestige lines that Shoppers Drug Mart has been luring to its shelves. This isn't in itself a problem as Rexall is clearly positioning itself as a drugstore first.

Service: On a weekend afternoon the store was fully staffed on both floors. A cosmetician was manning the main floor beauty department. Upstairs, the Men's Zone offered a unique way to dispense selling information in an area that may not be as well staffed as the cosmetics department below.

The checkout line moved quickly and the friendly cashier offered a grand opening discount coupon with a minimum purchase. The receipt featured an additional coupon, enticing the customer to return for another visit. While Shoppers has their popular Optimum program, Rexall is an Air Miles partner and customers earn 1 Air Mile for every $15 purchase.

Online: Like Shoppers, Rexall lacks e-commerce on its website. While the website has been refreshed with the new look and logo, it's fairly ordinary and offers flyer information, a store locator, and company information. With Walmart and Amazon now offering health and beauty items through their online stores, lacking e-commerce is a missed opportunity.

Grade: 75%

Lost marks for: Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will a huge chain of stores be rejuvenated overnight. Many older stores remain (with that awful old logo) that don't reflect the new look and feel and change will take time. E-commerce would be another way to step into the future. Also, I fail to understand why some stores are branded Rexall and others as Rexall PharmaPlus with no discernable difference between the banners. Surely branding everything simply Rexall would be simpler, cleaner, and might in fact Be.better.

Gained marks for: A refreshing new look that proves you don't have to copy your competitors in order to be competitive. The shop design is thoroughly modern and appealing, in some ways even more so than Shoppers. The new Be.better range has a premium look and feel and is well positioned to grow with the new Rexall.