'Derisking members' investment': Calgary Co-op announces acquisition of Care Pharmacies

Subsidiary of local grocery co-operative to hold majority stake in Canada’s largest chain of independent Canadian retail pharmacies controlled by licensed pharmacists

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Calgary Co-op is further expanding its retail footprint by becoming the majority shareholder of Ontario-headquartered Care Pharmacies.

The acquisition falls within the scope of Co-op’s focus on growth in the health and wellness sector, CEO Ken Keelor said.

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“We’ve been focused on growing in the health and wellness space now for a few years,” Keelor told Postmedia, highlighting acquisitions including a home health-care company and Calgary-based Community Natural Foods.

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“It’s a long-term trend: customers are looking for more health care, especially as more and more health care is moving from physicians to the pharmacy.”

The purchase of Care Pharmacies is part of a larger strategy for Co-op to enter new retail sectors and grow its geographical footprint, both rooted in a desire to protect members’ investments, Keelor added.

“It’s really about diversifying our members’ investments so they’re not completely invested in one market, being Calgary, which can be very much a boom-and-bust market. . . . We’re derisking the members’ investment,” he said.

He expressed a similar sentiment with regard to entering new lines of business.

“Whereas other businesses might slow down or shrink, health and wellness will continue to grow and potentially replace revenues that come from those other lines of business in the long term,” Keelor said, referring to a timeline spanning decades.

Care Pharmacies to continue as independent company

Care Pharmacies, a group of independent retail outlets controlled by licensed pharmacists, is headquartered in Vaughn, Ont., and will continue to operate as a separate entity following the transaction, Co-op said.

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Its leadership team will remain intact.

In Western Canada, the chain has one location in Alberta, one in Saskatchewan and 15 in British Columbia. In total, it has 56 pharmacies in five Canadian provinces.

A number of these locations operate in smaller localities, and in some cases they are the only retailer in town, acting as a general store.

“They are the meeting place and the community hub for all kinds of interactions,” Keelor said.

Because Care Pharmacies retail outlets are mainly owned by people who live in or near where the stores are located, there’s a culture of caring for its customers that Co-op found desirable, he added.

Care Pharmacies CEO Ali Reyhany said Calgary Co-op and Care Pharmacies share similar values.

“As hubs within our communities, we know that Care Pharmacies will continue to be strong beacons of trust and service for Canadians and their health and wellness,” he said in a written statement provided by Co-op on Tuesday. “We have found a great partner in Calgary Co-op and look forward to continuing to grow our business across Canada.”

The transaction, financial terms of which were not disclosed for competitive reasons, is expected to close in the first quarter of 2024, subject to certain conditions and regulatory approval.

Co-op’s Care Pharmacies acquisition follows its purchase of Willow Park Wine and Spirits in January 2023, with new locations recently opening in Saskatchewan.

Co-op bought Community Natural Foods in November 2019, with the brand now operating one location in Edmonton.

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