Even though Charlie Scerbo has had his business turned upside down in the last three weeks, he considers himself one of the lucky ones.
The franchisee of Target's Southdale pharmacy, who spent 20 months building up his clientele before the company pulled the plug on its Canadian operations in January, has sold his operation, including his patient records, to the Rexall PharmaPlus across the street.
Many of the other 87 franchisees across the country haven't been as fortunate. Scerbo said Target's lack of planning and poor handling of its pharmacies has put the franchisees in a difficult position because the value of their businesses falls every day.
"Sobeys and Shoppers (Drug Mart) and others are hovering around like vultures circling a carcass. They'll wait until you're desperate to sell and you'll get the bottom dollar for your business," he said.
Target did not have a checklist on how to wind down the pharmacies and told the franchisees they had to be out of their premises by Feb. 26 — sooner if possible.
"Franchisees are scrambling. They don't know what to do. They're afraid," he said.
The problem was compounded last Thursday when Target's website posted a note to customers that their files had been transferred to Walmart pharmacies. In fact, that was only the case with the three corporate-owned pharmacies.
"Our lawyers contacted their lawyers. They finally took (the post) down after about 12 hours, but they were damaging the franchisees. Customers started phoning Target pharmacies and asking if their files were now at Walmart. It created unwarranted confusion," he said.
Despite the apparent chaos, all Target customers can rest assured they will continue to receive the pharmaceutical care that they need, said Glenda Marsh, president of the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba.
The provincial regulator requires the owners of all pharmacies to advise their clients 30 days before they close and provide the name and address of the pharmacy where their records will be moved.
"The patients can choose to transfer to another pharmacy if they wish. Nobody will be left without service or prescriptions. That's part of the regulations," Marsh said.
The pharmacists are selling their businesses, of which individual patient records are a part, but they're not selling the records on their own.
Marsh said she's not worried that Winnipeg will be underserved with pharmacies when the Target stores close for good.
"We still have a lot of pharmacies available for patients. Hopefully, they'll be able to find another one that they're comfortable with," she said.
Scerbo said it became obvious early on that Target Canada had a supply-management debacle on its hands and couldn't keep its shelves stocked properly.
"I was a Shoppers Drug Mart franchisee for 28 years. I knew within three months that these guys (were in trouble). I don't think they could have operated a lemonade stand. I was shocked at the lack of proper systems and procedures. It was systemic, it wasn't just my store," he said. "If they ran a Target operation in Canada like they did in the U.S., everybody would have been successful."
No one from Target was available for comment.
Updated on Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 6:21 AM CST: Replaces photo