Loblaw has cancelled plans to open a series of health and wellness stores under the name Nutshell, saying that its purchase of the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy chain last year has focused its attention elsewhere.
The grocery chain had been preparing to open its first pilot store in a 9,000 square-foot space on King Street in Toronto, but delayed the planned fall opening.
"Opening Nutshell was an ambition," said Kevin Groh, vice-president of corporate affairs and communication, in an emailed statement Friday.
"We scoped the concept, and we learned a lot. There was absolute value in the pilot. However, with the purchase of Shoppers, our attention is simply elsewhere. At this point, we have no planned Nutshell openings, including at the King St. location where we initially laid out the format. However, it remains in our roster of format options."
Loblaw had initially sold the Nutshell concept as a "convenience-based, fresh food-led drug-store model" that would sell "fresh, natural and healthy food and living ideas." It would have been staffed by in-store advisers, dubbed Health Nuts," who would help connect consumers to local health experts and community seminars on topics such as diet, exercise, sleep, stress relief, etc."
It was widely thought the chain was positioning itself to compete against the U.S. grocery store chain Whole Foods, which markets similar concepts and has made inroads in the Canadian market.
It wouldn't have been the first time that Loblaw has ventured beyond its core product of groceries. In 2006, it entered the apparel market with its Joe Fresh stores.
It is thought that once it purchased the country's biggest pharmacy chain, Shoppers, last July in a $12.4 billion deal, it had to rethink the concept since it now had a whole other series of health-related brands under its umbrella. Shoppers, too, has recently expanded its focus on wellness and offers health advice and health monitoring equipment like blood pressure devices through its pharmacies.
Friday's news did not come as a complete surprise. Loblaw had signalled last month it was considering shelving the project in a post on the Facebook page of the King St. store. The post said:
"Pistachios are green,
Almonds are brown,
Try not to frown,
Nutshell has shut down.
While we have to abort,
We thank you all for your support!”