Pure dispenses calm to launch novel hybrid retail concept

Independent CD Marc Stoiber helps with the rebranding of a new kind of pharmacy, combining medicinal, homeopathic and naturopathic products.
Pure 4

Spas and pharmacies don’t have a ton in common. Sterile white, clinical smells and overcrowded shelves tend to be closer descriptors of Canadian pharmacies than the zen-like oasis of your typical spa. But Bob Mehr, owner of three-year-old, B.C.-based Pure Pharmacy, wants to provide customers with a different experience.

Mehr’s rebrand is based on combining the three methods of pharmacy: medicinal, homeopathic and naturopathic. Tapping an underserved niche, the store is targeting the baby boomer who wants the best of all worlds, and it will carry a wider range of products, including homeopathic remedies and items typically found in health food stores, as well as regular pharmacy wares. It will also have experts from all three fields of pharmacology on hand to answer questions and help customers navigate unfamiliar terrain.

The pharmacy category in Canada is dominated by major chains offering exclusive products, killer loyalty programs and one-stop convenience. So designing a unique retail experience is smart positioning. And as the niche retail market is growing, experiential design is key to entry.

Inspired by similar concepts in the U.S., Mehr brought on independent creative director and consultant Marc Stoiber to recreate the traditional-looking pharmacy top to bottom. They’ll begin rolling out the new store design in the brand’s three existing locations in March.

“We have the grey tsunami happening,” says Stoiber, “and [baby boomers] are being proactive, getting informed and taking things into their own hands. In North America, 95% of health care spend is on curing sickness. Only 5% is on actually encouraging wellness. This [store] is tapping into that sentiment that people want to switch gears from waiting till they get sick and then curing themselves.”

This is an established model in Europe and an emerging one in North America, says Stoiber. The integrated pharmacy model has a wide presence in Germany and France, while a similar concept called Pharmaca has been popping up at a rapid pace across the southern U.S. In Canada, few locations exist combining all three types of treatment, and none are models that could be rolled out among multiple stores on a wider scale, says Stoiber. It was a niche market waiting to be tapped, but one he predicts will grow and expand across Canada as more seniorstake control over their own health.

Getting people into the stores will be a slow build, as promotion will be limited to store flyers, says Stoiber. Driving customers into the store, and away from the “grocery store model” of pharmacy, will largely be a grassroots effort, as word-of-mouth spreads, he says.

Once a customer is in store, the big challenge will be to not overwhelm them. Based on research, they found that people are intimidated by their surroundings if they don’t often patronize health food stores, and vice versa for pharmacies. In order to bridge that gap, Stoiber says everything about the store, from the layout and signage to the décor and teal blue and white palette, has been designed to create a calming spa-like atmosphere with the focus on the customer’s health. For example, the first thing customers see is the teal blue pharmacy sign and counter at the back. “So right when the person walks in, they know we’re in the business of health,” says Mehr.

A consultation area, with comfy couches, is tucked into an alcove that can be closed off for privacy, allowing customers to freely discuss health options – whether medicinal, homeopathic or naturopathic.

“We want to talk to them about their diet, nutrition and stress levels. We want to see if there are any other ways we can help,” Mehr says. “We want to look at the patient as a whole.”

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