Target pharmacy has own battle, Megan Voss

Suhas Thaleshvar, owner and operator of the Target pharmacy at the Sherwood Park Mall, said he first heard about Target’s closure from his wife, who had read it on her phone. “None of us owners were given a heads up about that at all,” he said.

Sherwood Park News
March 9, 2015

Target pharmacy has own battle
Megan Voss

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All Target pharmacies are privately owned, and have had to fight to properly close. (Megan Voss News Staff)

While compensation is being offered to retail workers for Target Canada stores across the country, the impact of the American-based chain closing is different for the pharmacies based within the stores.

Suhas Thaleshvar, owner and operator of the Target pharmacy at the Sherwood Park Mall, said he first heard about Target’s closure from his wife, who had read it on her phone.

“None of us owners were given a heads up about that at all,” he said.

On the morning of Jan. 15, after the news of Target leaving Canada had broken, Thaleshvar and other pharmacy owners across Canada participated in a conference call with Target Canada’s corporate head office.

“During that teleconference, they told us that all contact with the office was cut off. There was no phoning, there was no e-mailing. We had one main point of contact… but they basically shut off her phone,” Thaleshvar said.

“There would be no money for us — no support for us.”

Target pharmacies are franchised operations within the store. Two years ago, Thaleshvar optimistically began practice inside the local Target.

“I was able to assemble my own team, my own staff that shared my common vision,” he said.

“The impact to us was a little different, because I lost my business. There’s pluses and minuses, I suppose, but we had invested heavily into Target and there was a lot at stake…. The marketing wasn’t that strong on the part of Target — we built our practice just on patients referring family and friends.”

He said after the announcement and the call from Target Canada, a generic e-mail was set up for pharmacy employees to send questions to, and every three days or so, a generic FAQ e-mail was sent out.

A week later, an e-mail was sent out to notify that the e-mail account would be shutting down.

“Now, effectively, we had no contact with Target,” Thaleshvar recalled.

“In that e-mail, too, it said contact would be severed, but the next time (we) heard from (them) would be registered notification that they were terminating our franchise agreement. What that meant was they were going to invoke a clause in our franchise agreement that effectively would give us 30 days notice to vacate the premises. So, they told us that on the 23rd (of January), and then on the 26th, we got that registered letter.”

The pharmacy was given until Feb. 25 to close down, but Thaleshvar said there are many regulatory standards and provincial laws applying to pharmacies, in regards to public protection for continuity of care, to follow.

“You can’t just hang a Closed sign on a pharmacy. People have to have access to their medications. People have to know where their files are, and, in fact, this 30-day notice breached provincial law in several jurisdictions,” he said.

Shortly after the original news of the closure, Target pharmacies across the country began to come together.

“As franchisees, we started to realize that we weren’t even at the table to be recognized by the courts during insolvency proceedings to be part of getting what’s ours,” Thaleshvar said.

“There’s thousands of dollars owed to franchisees, and there’s obviously costs involved with closing a business and taking all those steps as well.”

He said due to the pressure, a group called PFAC — Pharmacy Franchisees Association of Canada was formed. Within a week, 84 members came together, a government structure and communication system was set up, and legal advice was received.

With the news of the 30-day closure — which Thaleshvar said is illegal in Ontario — PFAC approached the courts in February to fight against the registered letter.

It took the judge a week to release a decision, stating that Target Canada was in agreement with a closing date of March 30.

Additionally, the judge recognized the group and legal counsel to have a right to be at the table for insolvency proceedings, and granted PFAC $100,000 to help with legal and financial advisory services.

Despite the positive outcome, Thaleshvar said the whole situation has been sad.

“There’s a few colleagues of mine across Canada that I know they’ve actually had to sell of their patient files, sell their equipment, sell their inventory for a fraction of what it’s worth to try and get out of the business they incurred,” he said.

“They shut a few pharmacies already.”

However, it is a more positive story for Thaleshvar, his staff and the Strathcona County patients. He will be opening up his own pharmacy in Sherwood Park under the Medicine Shoppe brand within a month.

“They kind of fit with our personal style and smaller style that we enjoyed within the Target store,” Thaleshvar said.

The patient records will be intact and coming with him and his team to the new pharmacy, although Thaleshvar said he may set up in a temporary location while building out a proper store.

“It’s been quite a ride,” he said.

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