London Drugs Offering Shelf Space in Stores to Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 [Interview]

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London Drugs is offering shelf space in many of its stores to help small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

“This is a really hard time for many small businesses, and we are in a unique position in these challenging times where we can really help out,” said Clint Mahlman, President and COO of London Drugs.

“As a 75-year-old Canadian owned and operated company we have always supported fellow Canadian businesses and now is the time more than ever, to come together. As an essential service, we are here to help our local small businesses while also providing an opportunity for customers to pick up their favourite local items and support their favourite local companies.


“Whether you sell coffee, local honey, or your restaurant’s graphic T-shirts, London Drugs is here to help.”

In select locations, London Drugs will be transforming its centre aisles into Local Central, a dedicated space to help local businesses sell their products.

Rob Felix, Senior Vice-President of Merchandising for London Drugs, said for a very long time the company has been selling local products in a number of its stores.

“It might be in Alberta or the Okanagan. It could be local honeys and jams, flowers, clothing, and books. We’ve been doing this for well over 10 years but obviously this is a little bit ramped up with COVID and all the difficulties and all the retailers that are closed,” said Felix.

“We saw an opportunity here to help out local retailers that are either closed or are in some way having financial difficulties as a result of this. And also to be candid to give our customers a bit of a surprise and delight. So if you’re in a small community in Alberta in Red Deer and you see the local flower shop operator or a clothing operator or a book seller that is selling some of their products in a London Drugs store, first of all it’s a pretty cool experience for you because you’re getting a local favourite and second of all it’s a bit of a value add when you come to London Drugs.


“We are not looking to make any profit on any of the things that we’re selling. We’re just looking to partner with people in the community that have cool items to sell and we’re going to provide them with space in our stores and we’re going to give them an opportunity to earn a little bit of income until their businesses open up again.”

Felix said each one of the company’s stores has a unique shape and size and that will determine where the local retailers will get space.

But he said all the space will be “prominent space towards the front of the store.”

“So it might be in an aisle. It might be right at the front of the store. It will really depend on the configuration of the store. Some of our stores are slightly different sizes or different configurations,” added Felix.

As an example, he said London Drugs sells Girl Guide cookies in its stores. That is right at the front of the store. It is literally the first thing customers see when they walk in the door.

“We want to do the same thing with local products. Not hide them. Not put them in some concealed area but put them right up front so that everybody’s got an opportunity to purchase them,” explained Felix.

The concept could potentially take place in each of London Drugs’ stores.

“There’s not a guarantee that it will happen in every store but we’re ready and we’re hoping that we’ll have unique product throughout every market that we operate in, in all of our stores,” said Felix.

“It’s just really part of our corporate DNA. Our ownership is committed to doing things in the market. This is something we’ve always done. For us, this is nothing new. It’s how we operate. It just makes sense and it makes sense to do things in the communities in which we operate.”

The B.C.-based London Drugs was founded in 1945 and today has 83 stores in more than 35 major markets throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Small business owners can visit here to learn if their products qualify and apply to be part of London Drugs Local Central. Some rules and restrictions apply.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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