SDM's new WellWise store will 'change the conversation on how people age'

TORONTO — Shoppers Drug Mart and its Shoppers Home Healthcare division recently announced a new retail concept called WellWise that breathes a little retail pizzazz into what has traditionally been a clinical retail shopping experience - DME centers - by fundamentally shifting the conversation from what are the products old people need as they get older to what are the solutions that can assist still-active seniors in aging gracefully.

The standalone, 3,500-sq.-ft. store’s inventory will encompass such categories as wellness (aromatherapy), recovery (first aid), mobility, home comfort, tools and gadgets, personal care and active living, which includes products for yoga, compression and light weights.

The concept officially debuts tomorrow, but in advance of the unveiling, Drug Store News sat down with WellWise archictect Theresa Firestone, SVP healthcare business, Shoppers Drug Mart, to get a sense of what Canadian consumers will see when they shop WellWise.

Drug Store News: What is WellWise?

Theresa Firestone: When we looked at this [home healthcare] business, we actually did a strategic review this past year, and one of the things that we found is that seniors wanted a different [concept] related to aging. So WellWise is really all about changing the conversation about aging. We found that people don't want to go to an "old people's" store; they don't want to talk about getting old. They want to talk about aging powerfully; they want to focus on health as opposed to illness. What WellWise is is essentially a new retail pilot, the first part being launched is our bricks-and-mortar opening on Saturday. We also have an ecommerce component that will be launched toward the end of October.

DSN: So how do you make "aging powerfully" pop in a retail outlet?

Firestone: We focus on three areas. One is the experience. It's a different shopping experience. Very bright. The categories are divided by color. It's a much more modern touch and feel type of store. We have a lot of the products out of the packages so people can experience them, so it focuses on experience. We also have a lot of focus on education. Our staff are trained on a lot of the conditions that would have coming to our store. I'll give you a couple of examples. We can have a construction worker who needs a hand brace [or] we can have somebody, it's trending much younger now, who needs a hip or knee replacement. So we would put together a package of five to six products related to the things you would need. The last part is we wanted to be more empowering, so that people can age powerfully as opposed to comfortably. It's all about being active. We'll have in-store programs to [help] people get active, walking in the community. We'll have dieticians that are available for consultation. The full gamut on wellness and the focus on keeping people active and healthy.

DSN: You had mentioned an ecommerce component, what is that?

Firestone: On that, one of the things that will be great for our clientelle is we will have a subscription service. Many of the products will be available online. ... Currently we're operating in three provinces. So if your mother is in another province and she needs incontinence supplies during a snow storm, you don't have to worry because you can have a regular subscription. Those products will show up at her door in plain packaging so she doesn't have to worry about [people] knowing that she has incontinence supplies. Once we launch that, we'll have a number of products that can be supported through subscription.

DSN: And dieticians, why is it that they have been incorporated into the WellWise proposition?

Firestone: Our dieticians, who are consultants for our other [Shoppers Drug Mart] business, support people in identifying the right foods and meal planning. Their focus is not on the selling supplements per se, it's more on keeping people as they age.

DSN: What inspired WellWise?

Firestone: It comes back to the research. The feedback we got was that people wanted a different shopping experience. People don't want to focus on illness, they want to focus on wellness. Our Shoppers Home Healthcare stores are focused on helping people age comfortably. A lot of people come to our [Home Healthcare] stores because they've had a fall, so they need support and additional aides in their home. Whereas we like to change that thinking to get people to say [to themselves], "I don't want to end up with a walker, and if I use walking sticks now I have less chance of falling [and] I can be active." It's really helping people to live life differently in all stages of life.

DSN: What is the bottom line?

Firestone: We are going to change the conversation about how people age. People don't look forward to that part of life, this gives people an opportunity to look forward to that part of life because you can age powefully, you can take control and there are many ways to be super active and enjoy life.

 

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