Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking good in a recession

From the Globe and Mail:
It's September and retailers are already feeling the pinch of sluggish consumer spending, but not here in a wealthy enclave in north Toronto. Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. is opening one of its biggest, glitziest new outlets and it doesn't look much like a drugstore, with its high ceilings, large windows and bright ambience.

Glass shelves filled with fancy bottles of cosmetics and fragrances greet consumers at the entrance. Organic foods and Nintendo portable consoles are among the products further inside. Customers could pick up $435 facial creams, pose for passport photos and even drop off their prescriptions (it is, after all, still a drugstore).

Under the direction of former chief executive officer Glenn Murphy, Shoppers transformed itself into a Canadian retail powerhouse. Its expansion has been dramatic, growing to more than 1,100 stores from about 800 in 2001. These were the best of times, and they continued under the leadership of Jurgen Schreiber, who became CEO in early 2007. Shoppers has been continually evolving, branching out into high-end beauty products, groceries and seasonal gifts to the point where it is more like a neighbourhood mini-department store. Throw in a burgeoning array of high-margin private labels, a loyalty card that is the envy of retailers across the country and a near doubling of profit in the past five years and it's not hard to make a case it is the most successful retail chain in the country.

But all that was during good times for the broader economy. Now that the tide is turning, it's up to Mr. Schreiber to keep up the momentum. ...more

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