Sechelt's Shoppers Drug Mart will soon be up for sale.
The move is being ordered by the commissioner of competition, who ruled that Loblaw Companies Ltd. would control too much of the market if it held both Extra Foods and Shoppers Drug Mart in Sechelt.
Loblaw will finalize the deal to acquire the Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation this Friday, March 28, necessitating the need to sell the Sechelt store.
"As part of the agreement with the competition bureau, that store will be sold to a new owner. So essentially, it will remain a drug store, but it will no longer be able to operate under the Shoppers Drug Mart banner," explained Shoppers Drug Mart media spokesperson Tammy Smitham.
The commissioner of competition has ruled that whoever buys the Shoppers Drug Mart must continue to operate it as a pharmacy and retail store, but who will buy it and whether they will take on all of the 35 staff members currently employed at Shoppers is uncertain.
Until the sale is made, Loblaw must maintain the business and "not terminate or alter any employment, salary or benefit agreements," according to the competition tribunal report.
"At this point in time, it's business as usual in the store throughout the sale process. The expectation from the competition bureau is that the store remains viable and continues to service the community in the way that it does today," Smitham said.
"Ultimately it will be up to the new owner in how they staff the store, but there will be a requirement for pharmacists and staff going forward."
Whatever happens at the Shoppers store, it's not likely to happen soon. "It could take several months," Smitham said, adding, "we anticipate that there will be some advance notice."
In the meantime, Shoppers in Sechelt will continue to have the same promotions and specials as other Shoppers Drug Marts and Smitham said local Shoppers Optimum customers will be contacted with instructions to redeem their points in the future.
"Obviously, in the case of Sechelt, there's not another Shoppers Drug Mart nearby where they could use their points, so we will be looking into that," Smitham said.
Shoppers Drug Mart is part of Trail Bay Centre in Sechelt. Mall manager Bruce Morris said he first heard about the change when Shoppers and Loblaw announced it on March 21.
Morris spent much of the next few days curbing rumours of store closure.
"They don't want to close this thing down. They want to actually have it owned by a competitor to Loblaw," Morris said. "It's a very good store. I've heard it's got good operations here, and the Shoppers guys I was talking to in Toronto were disappointed that they had to lose the store. By that same token, it should be quite attractive to other drug store operating companies that are around."
He assured other tenants of the mall that it was business as usual and encouraged them to pass the message on to customers.
"The name will change and the business will carry on," he said.
The Sechelt Shoppers Drug Mart is one of 27 stores being divested by Loblaw across Canada. It's the only Shoppers Drug Mart being sold in B.C.
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