Pharmacy for Women Only Opens in Vancouver

Discussion
Jul 07, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Evidently the Downtown Eastside section of Vancouver can
be a scary place. Women visiting pharmacies in the local area often
have to wait on line
outside and then have to speak with pharmacists through security glass.

“They’re, I think, quite hostile places and women don’t
feel safe,” Caryn Duncan, executive director of the Vancouver Women’s
Health Collective, told the Vancouver Courier.

Seeing this situation is what gave Ms. Duncan the idea for creating
a women’s-only pharmacy that will become a reality today as Lu’s: A Pharmacy
for Women opens for business.

Lu’s will have a pharmacist on hand to take care of local women sans
the protective barrier. The business also plans to offer a space for
local women’s health groups and also a nurse practitioner to operate
an in-store clinic.

“Women
are walking distances to have prescriptions filled and we’re
hoping that they will think to come to Lu’s,” said Ms. Duncan.

Discussion
Questions: What do you think of the potential for women’s-only pharmacies? Are there other exclusive types of formats
that you think would work without offending other segments?

[Editor’s
Note] Some men took issue with what they perceived as the
discriminatory nature of a women’s only pharmacy. See the
the thread following the Vancouver Courier piece.

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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17 Comments on "Pharmacy for Women Only Opens in Vancouver"


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Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
11 years 10 months ago

This kind of targeted retail environment has huge potential for high-density population zones with the luxury of letting some customers walk right by. The biggest win will be if Lu’s can position themselves as an important piece in tying together disparate women’s health elements including prescription, OTC, and homeopathic treatments. While the Canadians are ahead of the US in this arena, there is still tremendous need for a central place to help women understand the combined therapies sold within a pharmacy to address their changing physical and emotional needs by lifestage.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 10 months ago

The idea of a women-only pharmacy is a great niche idea, but it is simply that; a niche idea. You couldn’t build a chain around this concept. The fact is, the majority of people who shop pharmacies are women, so by excluding men from this one store should not harm sales all that much.

That being said, it will be interesting to follow up and see what happens when the first man shows up at the door and is barred from entering. I’m not that familiar with Canadian law, but there in the States, that man would have a great opportunity for a discrimination lawsuit, one would think.

I wouldn’t suggest that any of the US chains attempt to roll this idea out. It is not a scalable model.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

I think this will work only in unique situations like the one in Vancouver where personal safety might be an issue. However, I have never felt unsafe anywhere in Canada. Any man who complains about discrimination needs to grow up and just laugh this off, keeping in mind they probably would not want to go there anyway.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Great idea for a single location. She found a problem and has developed a solution. Just like a single restaurant, it can make the owner a nice living but it will never become a major player in the market.

Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Great idea, and one with more potential than just a single location, albeit I can’t imagine a full-on chain store concept around this.

Women shop differently from men (duh!), and one of the things they are attracted to are seminars/events/stores that are just for them. Look at the success of ‘women only’ gyms.
Wishing Lu’s lots of success…and more locations.

David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

The idea and concept for a niche pharmacy that caters specifically to women has great potential to be a huge success, and it also has great potential to be a complete flop, depending on the marketing plan and how it’s executed. There is no doubt that nearly 80% of all drug store shoppers are women. And there is no question that women’s products are a thousand percent more niche than men’s. However, women are extremely busy these days with careers and raising families and so their every day shopping is still more convenient in a store where all items can be purchased for the entire family. That said, if the new drug store concept is sort of “Ulta-like,” but more so in a pharmacy and drug store manner; and if personnel inside the stores are excellently trained; this could be a winner for consumers and manufactures of women’s consumer products.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 10 months ago

A women only pharmacy? A made in Canada solution for the difficult issue of client safety. Pharmacies in dense urban areas can become targets because of the prescription drugs in inventory. Reaching into the community to find the retail solution by directing the focus to women’s needs is a good one. Creating a local gathering place for women for health care issues makes sense here, but as others have reported, limited in application.

The largest chain in Canada, Shopper’s Drug Mart, has a well-defined consumer focus for women and has done extremely well. From upscale Beauty Boutiques that rival better department store displays, to the choices for “pick-up” food items and natural health products, it is easy to shop. They introduced Method natural cleaning products to Canada.

The retail descriptor of drug stores as “women’s convenience stores” is well developed and paying off nicely.

Liz Crawford
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Perfect solution for their unique problem. Probably not necessary in the US, where most drug outlets are geared for women anyway, and there is no “waiting outside” (yuck). Women frequent drug stores for many needs beyond health, and making the environment female-friendly can’t help but increase sales and loyalty.

Once the concept is proven, a men-only pharmacy may follow in Vancouver….

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Ms. Duncan has a great idea for the Downtown Eastside section of Vancouver. The need for safety makes it work. Without the need for safety, her success would be doubtful.

The reality is, from a business point of view, all drug stores are essentially women only. With that in mind, all drug stores should consider some of Ms. Duncan’s excellent women-centric ideas that the chain pharmacies might consider trying.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 10 months ago

This feels vaguely like shades of lunch counters in the South in the 1950s. Women actively choosing to seek out a female doctor or a female masseuse instead of an equally qualified male is one thing. But a business hanging out a sign that says “you are not welcome” to 1/2 the population is discrimination. It stinks no matter how good the intention might be.

Dave Wendland
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Well, there are certainly two sides to this coin and both have been expressed quite well in this discussion. I’m somewhat on the fence.

Do I agree that the majority of today’s drugstore shoppers are women? Yes. Do I think that today’s model truly caters to the unique needs and concerns facing busy, active women? No.

Think outside the retail walls for a moment. Among the most successful social networking sites and communities are those designed to address women’s needs (e.g., iVillage, Oxygen, SuzySaid, etc.). So, why not take this concept to the storefront? I think it is viable, scalable and a notable differentiator in an otherwise vanilla space.

Mark Patten
Guest
Mark Patten
11 years 10 months ago

Only in Vancouver! Considering the rough and tumble drug junkie world of East Van it seems like a great idea to offer a safe environment for women.

Like Supermarkets, Drug Stores always seem to be a more female-focused environment anyway. It would work in very specific environments but why deal with the hassle of keeping men out and just cater to the female population through a delivery service? That would be more customer-centric and a nice add-on service, rather than screening gender at the front door.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Is it legal? Well, regardless, I’m always in favor of focus at retail–it just makes things so much easier for customers and associates alike. At the end of the day, making it clear who your target customer is, is the ultimate retail strategy. Go Lu’s! Please open one in Columbus, Ohio!

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

This idea is weird.

What’s the difference between men’s products and women’s? Will the store carry only “girl” shaving cream, and not the less expensive “boy” shaving cream? Will condoms be available for women to buy? Will there be L’Oreal Preference, but no Just for Men? What about Red Bull? What about the skinny combs that guys prefer?

Since women purchase the overwhelming share of household goods, why figure out a way to keep them from buying products for their men? Baffling.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Maybe I’m missing something here as I’m no expert in either pharmacies, Canada or women, for that matter, but there’s a reason for a drug store to have a “security barrier”: namely, security (of the drugs held behind said barrier). Is Ms. Duncan planning to forgo stocking of the products that need such protection, or does she hope to assure safety by also restricting her store to (only) female criminals ??

While I, of course, wish the venture well, this reminds me of Elephant Pharmacy: a concept whose novel ideas often clashed with the real world to the extent that the resulting product wasn’t viable.

Nathan Horn
Guest
Nathan Horn
11 years 10 months ago

Agreeing with some of the other posters; how can this blatantly sexist business model be legal? I can imagine some poor guy walking into the place with a headache looking for some aspirin only to be greeted with “we don’t serve your kind here.”

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
11 years 10 months ago

Rest assured this situation will not develop (in the strictest sense) in our country. Federal law prohibits restriction of access to any licensed pharmacy. Even club stores (Costco, Sam’s and BJ’s) have to grant access to and sell to anyone wishing to buy prescription medication at one of their pharmacies.

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