Shoppers Drugmart
Many Kingston residents know, and perhaps love Herbies, purveyor of discount food and drugs. It has enjoyed prime real estate in a plaza that has seen better days on the corner of Princess Street and Centennial Drive. Once a neighbor to Winners, and a myriad of other failed businesses, Herbies survived where others could not. This past Spring I noticed a new retirement centre being constructed on the doorstep of the Cataraqui Town Centre, and I knew right away that Herbies would benefit. But on a recent trip out to mall, I was shocked to see a huge structure being built in the Herbies plaza parking lot, which displayed a Shoppers Drugmart – Coming Soon sign.

“Shocked” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but needless to say I was certainly not expecting another Shoppers Drugmart to sprout up in the area. The Cataraqui Town Centre already has one on the south side, and by rights, it is far closer to the new retirement building than Herbies. That said, the newer community on the north side of Princess Street, located just behind Chapters, Rona and all the others, might be more apt to visit Herbies than the Shoppers Drugmart at the mall, simply due to sheer convenience. So is this a case of strategic positioning, or canabalistic capitalism, the latter being an attempt to squeeze old Herb out of the game.

I hate to say it, but I’ll give Herbies 2 years before they have to close their doors. I mean, I don’t know who they get their “discount drugs” from, but surely a Canada-wide chain has a lot more purchasing power to negotiate lower prices and pass on the savings to Joe Six Pack. By the looks of the new Shoppers, it is going to be a beast, and will probably include their new, albeit limited, grocery store-style section. In addition, the new(ish) grocery store less than a block away is also a chain, and thus they are probably able to offer cheaper prices than Herbies. There’s only so much they can discount before they start to lose profit.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen Shoppers, or another business set up shop in someone else’s territory. Shoppers took up refuge on Bagot and Princess a few years back, and it is now quite a busy store. But this has not pushed other local pharmacies out of the same block. Starbucks would have to be the biggest culprit downtown, as they opened a store right next to the Sleepless Goat, and another one across from Coffee and Company near Queen’s. Although they could only dream to take clientelle away from the Goat, they were successful in diverting enough customers away from Coffee and Company that they had to close up shop. And as I said, I think it’s only a matter of time before Shoppers establishes a monopoly, and Herbies is forced to close up shop.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

4 thoughts on “Pharmapremecy

  • Another good thing about Herbie’s is that it is very accessible to those who use wheelchairs.

    The aisles are wide, the grocery selection is good, and the staff are very helpful at reaching things down.

    The big chains tend to crowd so much stock into the store that it is hard to get around. Shoppers is not always guilty of this, but when I see it happen in some aisles, usually the ones with seasonal goods or a special, it is very frustrating to be closed out or have to depend on a store employee or a stranger to access these goods.

    Herbie’s also respects those who have scent sensitivity or who want to buy healthy food like fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Shopper’s prefer to ignore the increased problem of scent sensitivity, so they stock the perfumed products inside the front door where it is unavoidable for those who have problems. I tend to avoid stores that stock perfume in a location that causes me to gag and become short of breath when I enter their store.

    Yes, here’s hoping the big chains like Shopper’s who are good at going with trends instead of the needs of their customers, don’t swallow up another good business, like Herbie’s.

  • wheelchairdemon, I completely agree with you on the perfumes at the entrances to all Shoppers. I’ve complained to them many times, and discovered I could go in through the exit and avoid that area. I’m not sure how easy that is to do in a wheelchair, but if you are with someone, you can push that exit door open. If they ever ask why you are, the answer is the truth! :-)

  • Shopper’s Drug Mart prices on food are terrible – much higher than Loblaws. I find it hard to believe that Herbie’s won’t be cheaper.

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