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NEWS: Brunny Rexall to shutter (May 2021)

June 15th, 2021 · No Comments

Closing comes as a surprise after only 3 years in operation

On June 11, as many patios and retailers reopened, Rexall’s sign came down. NEILAND BRISSENDEN/GLEANER NEWS

By Nicole Stoffman

Rexall Pharmacy in the former Brunswick House is closing after only three years, on June 11. Employees will be re-assigned by the corporately-owned store, but the future of management is uncertain, according to an employee. 

The move comes as a surprise to Bloor BIA Chair (and publisher of this newspaper), Brian Burchell, especially after Rexall’s extensive restoration of the heritage building. 

Founded in 1874 as The Brunswick Hotel when Bloor Street was just a wagon road, by the 60s the “Brunny” was a legendary beer hall and blues venue. 

Mementos of its storied past now grace the Rexall pharmacy’s interior. 

“That is a real credit to the retailer who was under no obligation to offer that historical glance for their patrons,” said Burchell. “We’re sorry to see them go.” 

Rexall’s American parent company, McKesson Corporation, has been thriving in this pandemic, earning $238.2 billion in revenues in 2020, a 3% increase from the previous year. So, it might be hard to believe Rexall’s official statement that the closure is due to lower sales resulting from pandemic restrictions. 

There may be other reasons why the Brunny Rexall didn’t thrive. There are six pharmacies within walking distance. 

According to Professor David Soberman, Canadian National Chair in Strategic Marketing at Rotman School of Management, the pharmacy needed to draw 50% of its competitors’ business to be viable. 

High rent, financing the renovation, and a storefront that shoppers can’t see into may also have played a role. 

The Gleaner spoke with customers who said  that high prices and the lack of an accessible entrance on Bloor, were reasons they didn’t frequent Rexall too often.

McKesson Canada closed 40 of its 450 stores in 2018, citing falling prices for generic drugs and higher minimum-wages that cut into profits. 

“When you’re a big network like Rexall, you’re going to be opening and closing franchises all the time,” explained Soberman, who added that in order for a large corporation to work, every piece needs to generate profits. He adds that Rexall may have seen the Brunswick House location through “rose-coloured glasses.”

What about the eight billion McKesson Corp. has to pay over the next 18 years to settle opioid litigation in the U.S.? As distributors, they have been accused of fanning the flames of the opioid crisis by not adequately vetting suspicious orders. 

“If you’ve got a location that is generating money independent of what liabilities you have,” responded Soberman, “you’re going to keep it open.”

Soberman speculates that the company plans to sublet its lease to a tenant that could make a profit at the storied location. 

The building is owned by Larry Sdao, a board member for the Bloor Annex BIA.


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