Canadian pharmacists fighting Target Canada, Francine Kopun

Winnipeg pharmacist Charles Scerbo was familiar with Target stores in the U.S. and how busy they were. “I thought, if they operate stores here like they do in the U.S., it’s a slam-dunk,” he said. He was told to expect to be filling up to 400 prescriptions a week by the second year. “It never materialized. They failed from the beginning,” he said.

The Toronto Star
February 3, 2015

Canadian pharmacists fighting Target Canada
Pharmacists feel their deals with Target Canada have left them high and dry.
Francine Kopun

Target%20pharmacy.jpg

Stavros S. Gavrilidis, Target pharmacist franchisee in Windsor, Charles P. Scerbo, pharmacist in Winnipeg, and Dan D. Dimovski, business partner, are fighting mad about the way they are being treated by Target as it winds down Canadian operations. Bernard Weil/Toronto Star

Stavros Gavrilidis had been operating a successful independent pharmacy in Windsor for more than 20 years when he got a glossy postcard from Target, inviting him to become a franchisee.

At the time he was working about 45 hours a week at his own store, ringing up $1.8-million a year in sales and bringing home between $120,000 and $150,000 for himself.

He liked the idea of moving his operations into a Target at the Devonshire Mall in Windsor. He thought it would be better for his customers, too.

Target was promising plenty of foot traffic and strong financial results for the pharmacy franchisees operating within its stores – as much as $300,000 in annual income after five years.

Franchisees were told to be ready to hit the ground running as the first weeks were the most critical in building up a client base, said Gavrilidis.

Instead they were hampered by fax machines that didn’t work on the first day, making it impossible to fax doctor’s offices for prescriptions. The computer software they had to use was relatively untested and difficult to operate, said Gavrilidis.

The stores were empty and the shelves were bare.

“They basically set up hurdles in front of us instead of giving us open lanes to run,” he said.

Now pharmacy franchisees have been told they have to leave by February 27, a deadline they say they can’t possibly meet.

Competitors who are aware of their situation are offering them a fraction of what their client files are worth – as little as $1-$2 a file instead of the market value of $17, said Gavrilidis.

“It’s like a fire sale,” he said.

Target wants to close all 133 stores in Canada by May 15 at the latest, and approximately three dozen stores by March, after a botched, $7-billion attempt to expand outside the U.S.

Target Corp. set aside $90 million to pay the 17,600 people who will be left jobless when stores close, but pharmacy franchisees say they are being left high and dry.

Canadian pharmacists who bought franchises to operate inside Target stores thought they were getting into a great partnership.

Instead, some of them struggled so badly they required what they came to call ‘welfare’ payments from Target to stay afloat, after the promised foot traffic and sales failed to materialize.

Winnipeg pharmacist Charles Scerbo was familiar with Target stores in the U.S. and how busy they were.

“I thought, if they operate stores here like they do in the U.S., it’s a slam-dunk,” he said.

He was told to expect to be filling up to 400 prescriptions a week by the second year.

“It never materialized. They failed from the beginning,” he said.

In all, 81 pharmacist franchisees have joined the Pharmacy Franchisee Association of Canada (PFAC) seeking a better deal from Target.

The organization has hired legal counsel to try to get pharmacists more time to transfer their operations and they are seeking an unspecified amount of financial compensation.

“They’re not allowing us ample time to close down,” said PFAC president Dan Dimovski.

“Target is undermining, without regards to the consequences, the Canadian public health care system as it relates to the ability to provide ongoing continuity of care to patients.”

The organization is raising awareness of the problem with provincial compliance and regulators such as The College of Pharmacies.

Contacted late in the day for a response, Target was unable to respond in time for this story’s deadline.

http://www.thestar.com/business/2015/02/02/ontario-pharmacists-fighting-target-canada.html


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