London Drugs Opens Large Storefront at Southgate Centre in Edmonton in Former Woodward’s Space [Feature]

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Richmond BC-based London Drugs has opened a large storefront at Southgate Centre in Edmonton. The unique store is located on the second level of the North Wing of the mall, relocating from a standalone pad store located at 10531 – 51st Avenue formerly within the London Centre strip mall.

The new Southgate store has an expanded retail footprint of 29,600 square feet and contains all of the signature London Drugs departments including Pharmacy, Cameras, Photolab, Cosmetics, Appliances, Electronics and Computers.

The former pad location opened in 1982 and had a retail footprint of 20,919 square feet. London Drugs was founded in 1945 and is an expanded pharmacy retailer that carries a range of products from A to Z. It currently has a network of 79 physical stores located in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and also has an online presence through www.londondrugs.com which ships to customers across Canada. To learn more about London Drugs, read this Retail Insider interview with Clint Mahlman, President and Chief Operating Officer of London Drugs.

Store Tour of the New Southgate London Drugs Store

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)
London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

This open store concept is the latest evolution of the London Drugs store format. We were fortunate to be provided with a store tour by Rob Felix, Senior Vice President, Merchandising.

Walking towards the Pharmacy department, Felix pointed out the wider aisles that drive shoppers to this section. The average aisles in London Drugs stores are 6 feet wide with the new Southgate store boasting aisles spanning 10 feet in width.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

A unique design approach in this store revolves around the location of the Pharmacy, Beauty and Tech departments. The design approach mimics the Kitchen Work Triangle design. In this design, the three elements (cooktop, sink, and refrigerator) are laid out in a triangle pattern to maximize efficiency and reduce wasted steps. Similarly locating the Pharmacy, Beauty and Tech departments in a triangular format allows cross merchandising of complementary products near or adjacent to each other.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)
London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

The Pharmacy is located in the center of the triangle and flanked by the Tech department on the right. To the left is a department housing Health Tech and Health Lifestyle products such as health monitors, scales, thermometers, massagers, body supports and yoga equipment. The location within the store provides the opportunity for the customer to be assisted by pharmacy professionals for their health questions such as heart rate and blood pressure, while tech associates are available to assist with questions such as how to link the health tech devices to their smartphone. With the Beauty department on the left, this allows merchandising of skincare products in an integrated manner. The pharmacy professional can provide information on pharmaceutical-grade skincare products while the cosmeticians are able to provide information on cosmetic skin care brands. Overall, this allows an integrated approach to customer service. The key benefits include allowing associates to assist the customer with different needs without having to leave their home departments, providing a one stop visit for customers by reducing the number of steps locating store departments and leading to a higher store conversion rate.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

The Tech department also has an expanded Tech Services section. The service provides dedicated in-store, home and remote technology support services. The in-store service technicians offer out-of-warranty work on HP, Lenovo, Asus, ACER, Apple, Microsoft products, assistance with a software or hardware setup, installation, virus removal, cleaning, data transfers, troubleshooting, software conflicts and education.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)
London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

The Photolab within the Tech department has also expanded in the new Southgate London Drugs. As other retailers were exiting this business, London Drugs reinvented the Photolab to resonate with both an older and younger demographic. The Photolab offers traditional services including photo finishing, media transfer and passport photos. For the younger shopper, London Drugs has tapped into the personalization trend for the Photolab. You can print your picture on pillows, blankets, caps, mugs and more. There are also dedicated photo editing computers for customers to finalize their images instore and leveraging assistance from the Photolab associates.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

The Beauty department has expanded to include dedicated areas with branded fixturing for Biotherm, Clinique and Shiseido.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

The Housewares department focuses on everyday household items and brands such as Starfrit and Salton. There are other housewares retailers within Southgate Centre that carry higher end houseware products and this merchandising strategy helps fill the gap for everyday items.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

Another unique merchandising concept in the store is Market Central, located near the checkout. Previously known as the promotional aisle, Market Central has modernized this concept. The concept essentially creates a curated boutique concept within a larger store allowing customers to find new and unique products that they may not otherwise find. At the Southgate store, this space utilizes two main aisles with moveable fixtures on castors for the middle section and specialized shelving with wood accents on the perimeter.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

Market Central can be modified for different seasons as well as promotional cycles — moveable fixtures allow space that can be transitioned to fit various items without costly fixture movement and also creates the treasure hunt atmosphere for customers that changes throughout the year. Currently the section houses summer goods such as sunglasses, suncare and pizza ovens. Soon, the department will be transitioned to Back to School offerings.

London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)
London Drugs Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

Market Central has been very successful and is being rolled out across the chain. It has also been recognized as a finalist for the In-Store Experience and Design Award at the 2022 Retail Council of Canada Excellence in Retailing Awards.

Analysis

London Drugs relocating to Southgate Centre is a great opportunity for both the retailer and Southgate Centre. The distance from the original store to Southgate Centre is only 1.3 kilometers away, approximately 5 minutes by car. There is great transit access to Southgate from the former location in the Empire Park neighborhood. The relocation to Southgate should transition the store’s existing customers as well as add new customers that would not have travelled to the original store. Being at Southgate is advantageous since there is the Southgate Transit Centre with both bus and light rail transit transfers adding additional volume of people. Overall London Drugs joining Southgate Center is an excellent addition to the retailer mix and will resonate with both existing and future shoppers.

Future H&M at Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)
Future H&M at Southgate (Image: Christopher Lui)

There is still more exciting North Wing redevelopment to come. We will be reporting on additional retailers that will be opening in the North Wing in the near future including Sporting Life, H&M and Michael Hill slated to open Fall 2022 as well as the grand unveiling of the wing.

History of the Space

Located in Southwest Edmonton, Southgate Centre opened over 50 years ago on August 12, 1970. With a total retail footprint of 940,967 square feet, Southgate Centre is a super-regional mall with 159 stores and services. A few notable current tenants include Edmonton founded Poppy Barley and Edmonton’s only Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel and Nespresso stores.

The North Wing Redevelopment was announced in 2020 with an estimated cost of $93 Million. The entire North Wing is approximately 260,000 square feet with Ledcor as the contractor for the project. This redevelopment included (1) reconfiguring the former anchor tenant space to smaller scale retail stores, (2) expanding the retail square footage by annexing mall corridors and annexing additional tenant space with select existing tenants including Starbucks, Coles Bookstore now rebranded as Indigo Spirit and Dairy Queen Treat / Orange Julius combo store relocated to existing space within the mall, (3) adding an open concept atrium seating area, (4) adding a new east facing loading dock and (5) adding infrastructure including accessible bathrooms, elevators and escalators.

The former Woodward’s store at Southgate Centre in Edmonton in 1970. Image via Woodward’s Facebook page

Renamed The North Wing, this original anchor space spanned over 293,809 square feet with a main floor, upper floor and basement floor. It was occupied by the Woodward’s Department Store from 1970 to 1993 – it was consistently the chain’s top performer. The Woodward’s store also included a Woodwood’s Food Floor which is now the Safeway Canada Supermarket (52,571 square feet), Woodwards Garden Centre which is now occupied by George Richards Big & Tall Menswear store and an open space for lease (7,238 square feet) and the Woodwards Tire Centre on an external pad which is now occupied by Scotiabank and Southgate Dental Centre (10,311 square feet). The combined Woodward’s Southgate retail footprint was over 304,120 square feet. When the Woodward’s department store chain closed due to bankruptcy, it was subsequently replaced with an Eaton’s Department Store. The Eaton’s store was open from 1993 to 1999 and spanned 234,000 square feet. Eaton’s also closed due to bankruptcy and Sears Canada moved into the same retail footprint from 1999 to 2018 and unfortunately also closed due to bankruptcy. For a temporary time between Spring 2018 to Fall 2019, a local furniture store, Big Comfort occupied the main floor of the former Sears space.

Article Author

Christopher Lui
Christopher Lui
Christopher Lui is a Human Resources and Marketing Professional with over 10 years of experience in project management and working on multi-stakeholder projects in both public and private sectors. He has management consulting experience in areas such as strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, and change management.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Man I really wish we would get a London Drugs in Hamilton (and across Ontario in general)! Is there a reason they don’t have any stores in Ontario?

    • London Drugs tends to take a measured approach to expansion, along with its sister chain Fresh St. Market. But its stores seem to be steadily improving, so hopefully it will be worth the wait when it arrives in southern Ontario.

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