Jean Coutu to expand into Ontario market

LONGUEUIL, Quebec The Jean Coutu Group on Tuesday announced that it has set its sites on Ontario for future expansion, with plans for developing a new store concept to better compete with the dominant drug store player in that market—Shoppers Drug Mart.

“We have to do this right and find our place in the sun,” noted Jean Coutu president and chief executive officer Francois Coutu after the chain’s annual meeting for shareholders held yesterday. Quebec represents the greatest sales-per-store upside and is the “best investment opportunity” now, Coutu told shareholders.

According to a report in the Canadian daily The Globe and Mail, Jean Coutu’s initial intention was to use its U.S. banners, both Eckerd and Brooks, as part of its domestic expansion strategy. But that strategy was nixed following the sale of its U.S. operations to Rite Aid in June.

The company plans to invest $105 million (US$107.8 million) in the coming year on 11 new outlets, 11 store relocations and 44 store expansions and renovations. Jean Coutu plans to open 50 new stores by 2010.

The Jean Coutu Group also Tuesday introduced its I.D.E.A.L. project, a test pilot in which nurses are being hired to assist the chain’s pharmacy teams in an effort to improve pharmaceutical follow up with patients.

According to Jean Coutu, the nurses are required to be members of Canada’s professional order of nurses, l’Ordre des Infirmieres et Infirmiers du Quebec.

Currently I.D.E.A.L. is in pilot project phase at a dozen PJC Jean Coutu drugstores. As a result, 12 nurses, who are all members of the OIIQ, have been hired for the project.

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