CWH expands Euro footprint

UK press reports Australian pharmacy giant will have 12 Irish stores within 18 months, while it also signs two new wellness product deals

Chemist Warehouse looks set to significantly expand its fledgling European operation with UK newspaper The Times reporting it will open ten new stores in Ireland.

It said the new stores would open across the country over the next 18 months creating around 250 jobs and adding to the two stores CW already has in the greater Dublin area.

Quoting “property sources” the company was looking for retail units in prime Irish locations of between 1100 and 1400 m² to rent, it said.

The discount pharmacy chain was already believed to have chosen new premises in a southern Dublin suburb. This added to its current locations in the city’s centre, which opened just over a month ago, and on the northern outskirts of the city, which opened in late October last year.

Chemist Warehouse currently has around 70 employees in Ireland.

The company declined to comment on the report, though Chemist Warehouse director, Mario Tascone had said when its Dublin city site opened that the chain filled “a much-needed void in the Irish retail space”, already clocking up over 150,000 customers in spite of Ireland having been in lockdown for much of the time since it had opened.

CWH currently has over 450 stores in Australia, with a further 24 in New Zealand and four in China.

The expansion, notably in the only native English-speaking market which is still part of the European Union, comes as major moves occur in the wider domestic pharmaceutical wholesaler arena.

Though API has rejected Wesfarmers $687 million takeover offer, the Australian Financial Review had earlier cited speculation that Chemist Warehouse could be a fitting partner for the cashed-up Western Australian retail behemoth, which was keen to move into the health and wellness retail sector.

Before the Wesfarmer deal went south, it quoted a senior executive speculating that Wesfarmers seemed to have a longer term plan with “even Chemist Warehouse” a potential partner or acquisition though “the API deal would be a cornerstone”, it said.

Speculation was rife in finance and other media earlier this year that the chain, which accounts for more than 20 per cent of the Australian community pharmacy market, was considering an IPO though that chatter has since largely gone silent.

The company has also inked two new deals for wellness products for the chain.

One is a strategic partnership with ASX-listed, Brisbane-based herbal medicines company Fiji Kava. The deal will see CWH provide sales and marketing expertise over three years, with Fiji Kava issuing more shares which will eventually leave CWH with up to 10% of the company.

Fiji Kava will be a platinum supplier and its full range of Noble Kava complementary herbal medicine sleep and nerve products will be available across CWH’s local and international network including on its Chinese Alibaba Tmall Global store.

Chemist Warehouse has also done a deal with ASX-relisted Wellnex Life (formerly Wattle Health). It has started producing a range of liquid soft gel paracetamol as part of a a 10-year joint venture with the pharmacy chain.

Wellnex, which went back on the ASX just over two weeks ago, will develop, register and commercialise the range which CWH will do the marketing and distribution with the gel capsules – the first of four Wagner Liquigesic products anticipated from the pairing – expected to be available from September.

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