Pharmacy Retailer FGC Health Launches Significant Store Expansion by Acquisition: Interview

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Winnipeg-based FGC Health continues to grow its footprint in the pharmacy space with the acquisition of five Calgary drug stores.

FGC, which owns, operates, and services independent pharmacies, medical clinics, home health care and ambulatory care services, now has 10 pharmacies in its portfolio – three in Ontario and seven in Alberta – which are being branded as Healthful Pharmacy, which will be launched in the third quarter of this year.

Dalbir Bains

“Our ongoing success has provided us the chance to continue growing and expanding our network of retail pharmacy locations, and with that opportunity we plan to bring our innovative and modernized approach to managing retail pharmacies and their customer experiences to Canadians all across this country,” said Dalbir Bains, CEO of FGC Health.

The company has also announced the hiring of industry veteran Trevor Paynter as Executive Vice President of Pharmacy Operations. Paynter joins FGC Health after 20 years working in the retail pharmacy industry, most recently serving as the Director of Pharmacy and Retail Operations for Walgreens.

Trevor Paynter

“With Trevor Paynter joining our team at the helm of this ongoing expansion and transformation, we are primed to bring positive change and innovative strategies to the industry as a whole, and these recent acquisitions play a significant role in making that a reality,” added Bains. 

The company’s newest acquisitions in Calgary include Hope Medicare, Whitehorn Pharmacy, and three Martindale Pharmacy locations. 

FGC Health began in January 2020. The company’s initials stand for Freedom, Growth, Community.

“The plan is to reach about 50 pharmacies by the end of the year,” said Bains.

“With seven pharmacies in Alberta, one of the things we really gain is tremendous knowledge and experience in how to provide personalized services that pharmacists can do under an expanded scope . . . For us, Alberta is the most progressive province. So we wanted to certainly have a strong presence there because that’s where we think the future of pharmacy is going, more in terms of service as opposed to just product. But in Ontario they also announced a progressive program Minor Ailments where pharmacists will be able to prescribe medications under certain protocols.

Image: FGC Health

“That gives us the opportunity to apply the same knowledge in the Ontario market. Obviously Trevor is leading that effort.”

One of the initiative’s key components is the pharmacy partner program where pharmacists will have an equity position in the business.

“A lot of the young pharmacists are finding it hard to get in because the prices have gone up and a lot of the female pharmacists because of mat leave and other issues are also finding it hard to own. So we’re looking at different models to bring in people,” said Bains. 

“We just brought in our first female pharmacy partner recently and what it does is it puts the power back in the hands of the people that deliver the care. With the right information, the right data, the right interventions given to them. That’s the key. It has to be together.”

Bains said the company is focused on community – how can the pharmacy go from being a pill dispenser to a community resource. It’s the mindset it takes as it believes community is what drives big change. The strategy is to  be able to provide multiple services through the pharmacies.

“As I looked for the next step in my career within the healthcare and retail pharmacy field, FGC Health and its mission of transforming the customer experience at pharmacies across Canada stood out to me, and I could not be more excited to join the team and to serve a key role in this mission moving forward,” said Paynter. “Stepping into this role has provided me the opportunity I have always looked for to change the industry and empower the owners and operators of retail pharmacies while putting the customer experience at the forefront of the field.

Image: FGC Health (Bradford Store Signage)

“It’s about having the pharmacists being able to practice at the top end of their license. We talk about the community, it’s really important to think about how the pharmacist is truly the most accessible health care provider in the community  . . . We’re looking to have a full complement of the health services that we’re taking to the market.” 

 Bains said independent pharmacy is suffering right now and comparison sales have been declining for the vast majority of independents. Some of that is because many independents were not ready for the COVID-19 pandemic. That customer wave was lost.

“For us now, it’s really not about us putting in money to own our own pharmacies but we’re doing it largely because we think there’s a better way and that better way is to hold on to the one advantage that all these independents have which is the personalization of service,” said Bains. “There’s a personalization of care that is very difficult to replicate by chains.

“We believe that with that personalized care model with the right environment around those businesses, they will win and they will win by one measure, which is patient outcomes. Patients will do better under their care than somewhere else. And so we’re trying to basically get to the market with tools and programs to basically lift up the independent to say no we’ll compete now and kick the chain’s ass.

“This is about a renaissance involving independents. We’re certainly one of many who are supporting this evolution but we’re very excited about being I would say the underdog in this whole fight.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
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 News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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