London Drugs offering shelf space to local businesses impacted by COVID

The Western Canada chain has received more than 450 applications for its ‘Local Central’ program in its first week

London Drugs might have found a remedy for small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, by offering them shelf space within its stores. London Drugs is waiving the listing fee and will not take a cut of any sales.

The Richmond, B.C.-based company, which operates 83 stores across Western Canada, is currently accepting requests from small business owners to have their product(s) featured in a centre-aisle section of the store that has been dubbed Local Central.

It’s an extension of the chain’s more than 10-year commitment to selling local products such as jams, honey, condiments, etc., says senior vice-president of merchandising Rob Felix. A store in Taber, AB, for example, has been selling the corn for which the town is famous.

“We’ve done this before, but not at this level,” says Felix, who says that London Drugs has received more than 450 requests from local businesses since announcing the program earlier this week.

While certain categories such as cannabis and alcohol are excluded, Felix said the first wave of applicants included companies in the aromatherapy and body care segments, as well as fitness equipment, healthy snacks, organic chocolates and natural soaps.

Companies will be selected based on their ability to reliably deliver product to London Drugs stores, an appropriate fit with the brand, and products that possess the ability to “surprise and delight” customers. “We’re looking for products that are interesting and truly going to make an impact when people come into our stores,” says Felix.

The catalyst for the program was a partnership with the Girl Guides of Canada, which saw it sell their famous cookies in its stores. London Drugs has already sold more than $500,000 worth of the cookies, and Felix expects sales will easily surpass $1 million. “We want to duplicate that experience with local businesses,” he says.

Small businesses are generally regarded as the backbone of the Canadian economy, but many have been left crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that only 21% of small businesses are fully open, and half of owners said they’re unsure if they would survive the lockdown period.

Companies interested in having their products listed with London Drugs can apply here.