Here's a catch all page for this and that that doesn't quite fit in here or there but are interesting reads. ~Bill

A rise in shopping mall clinics has some dentists worried

A rise in shopping mall clinics has some dentists worried

CAROL BRUMAN, SEPTEMBER 14, 1981 Macleans Magazine

A retired air force officer, Clifford Bowes, 66, was browsing through a Woolco store near his north Toronto home last June when his eye happened on an unfamiliar sight—a dental clinic next to the snack bar. For two years, Bowes, with no dental insurance, had put off having some badly needed work done on his teeth, but the convenience of the Tridont Dental Centre was hard to pass up. Later, after Dr. Brian Budovitch had pulled four teeth, the bill, based on the Ontario Dental Association’s 1979 suggested fee guide—about $16 per tooth—turned out to be painless. Says Bowes: “At other dentists I’ve had to make appointments two to three months in advance. ”


Bowes is one of many customers who have turned to a growing trend in dental care—so-called department store dentistry—as a practical alternative to staid and conservative clinics. While the new concept, designed to popularize tooth care and give the profession a higher profile, isn’t for everyone, dentists who operate the five outlets now in Canada say many of the 12 million Canadians who, according to Health and Welfare Canada, don’t visit dentists on a regular basis won’t be wary about seeking emergency or standard dental services in busy shopping areas.


Although department stores and shopping malls welcome the clinics because they attract shoppers, many in the dental profession aren’t as receptive to change. They complain that storefront clinics could lead to a breakdown of traditional doctor-patient relationships, a lowering of the profession’s prestige and undercutting of fees.


The clinics, which lease space in shopping areas, operate as independent businesses and have several things in common: two to eight full-time dentists to provide a full range of services as well as oral surgeons, orthodontists, hygienists and other specialists who work on a free-lance basis. Most clinics operate during store hours six days a week including some evenings and provide a 24-hour emergency service. Competitive fees are posted on office walls or in brochures and are made possible by bulk buying, large clienteles and the use of in-company labs, which manufacture such devices as dentures and crowns.


The storefront clinics are so new that several of Canada’s 10 provincial dental associations—normally hesitant to accept modern marketing techniques in the profession—still haven’t ruled on their acceptability. But spokesmen for most of the associations agree that storefront dentistry will be tolerated so long as services are provided by independent, licensed practitioners and fees are not “blatantly” advertised.


One registrar opposed to the massmarketing of dentistry is Dr. John Thompson of the New Brunswick Dental Society. “Fortunately we don’t have any in New Brunswick,” he says. “If one tried to open it would be met with quite a bit of resistance and would probably be challenged under our dental act.” Reflecting a more common view, however, is Dr. Kenneth Pownall, registrar of Ontario’s Royal College of Dental Surgeons, who says, “A dentist can practise on top of the Toronto Dominion Centre if he wants to.”


In Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta, where storefront dentistry has been

given the profession’s go-ahead, three chains are now competing for business. Tridont Dental Centres of Mississauga, Ont., owned by Dr. Howard Rocket, 33, was the first company to pioneer the field in Canada when it opened an outlet at a Towers store in Mississauga last year. Since then he has opened branches at two Woolco stores in the Toronto area and at a Towers store in Sudbury. Towers is so pleased with customer acceptance that Sam Crystal, a company spokesman, says, “We plan to open two more Tridont centres in October at stores in Ottawa and Waterloo.”


Another newcomer in the field is Dental World Systems Inc., also of Mississauga, which has bought the right to franchise outlets from a U.S. company based in New York. This chain will open its first outlet in October in an underground mall at Toronto’s Hudson’s Bay centre. Forty-five more—offering nurseries on the premises and same-day reconstructive dentistry (such as bridgework)—are planned during the next five years. A third chain, Dynasty Dental Systems Inc., based in London, Ont., plans to open its first four outlets at shopping malls in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton and Bramalea, Ont., this month. If the idea takes off, owner Dr. Robert Leigh, 35, who hopes to call his clinics Smiles, envisions as many as 200 more located in downtown bank towers, city centres and suburban malls. “We sort of follow Highway 401 and plan to open offices along the route,” he says.


While it is highly unlikely that storefront dental clinics will drive solo practitioners out of business, success in the U.S., where three chains have opened about 30 outlets in eight states since 1977, shows the trend could snowball and create stiff competition for established dentists who are already enduring dramatically higher office expenses and a rising number of bankruptcies. So far, only a minority of established dentists endorse the concept, largely because it provides jobs to new graduates unable to afford a private practice, which can cost between $80,000 and $100,000.


For others, the new breed of dental entrepreneur is an unwelcome intrusion in an already crowded field. “I went into a profession because I didn’t want to get into the dog-eat-dog competitive business world,” says Dr. Bruce Hord of Toronto. “I wanted to be instrumental in helping people with their health problems.” He adds, bitterly, “For these people, making money seems to be their No. 1 concern.” Budovitch, 25, a recent graduate who joined Tridont last year and now earns a “generous” portion of the branch’s profits, chalks up his colleagues’ resentment to jealousy. “They wonder why they didn’t get involved in it first,” he says. “Many didn’t think it would work.” £?


Zellers, Woolworth face off

for control of Towers
by Mary Ellen Kelly (Discount Store News, October 15, 1990)

MISSISSAUGA, Ontario - Towers Department Stores, the 51-unit discounter based here, is caught in a tug of war for between two of Canada's largest discount store chains, Zellers and Woolworth.

The outcome has the potential to upset the balance of power among the handful of dominant retailers in Canada.

Separately, K mart Canada reported it has signed a letter of intent to sell its 154-unit Bargain Harold's chain to an undisclosed group of individuals who have a retail background.

Zeller parent, The Hudson's Bay Co. and Towers' parent, The Oshawa Group, signed a letter of intent Oct. 3, with expectations of sealing the deal by the end of the month. Towers president, William Atkinson, said he was "totally surprised" by the unsolicited offer.

The tug of war broke out when F.W. Woolworth Co., Canada caught wind of the proposed deal. Executives issued a letter expressing, "surprise" and "disappointment" that they had not been invited to participate in the bidding, and asked The Oshawa Group to provide them with an equal opportunity to make an offer for the Towers chain.

Similarly, at K mart there was surprise. James A. Ingram, general counsel and secretary of K mart, Canada said, "Bargain Harold's was not on the market to be sold. We were approached." K mart was approached "several months" ago, said Ingram, and signed the letter of intent Oct. 4. The Bargain Harold's deal is unrelated to the Towers negotiations said Ingram, adding, "We're certainly not interested in acquiring Towers."

While none of the firms involved in the negotiations would disclose information about possible acquisition terms, Canadian analysts estimated the price range for Towers is between $75 million and $100 million, according to several Canadian newspapers, including The Financial Post. However, one analyst told DSN she considers these estimates to be very low, and perhaps responsible, in part, for Woolworth's interest in Towers.

Nancy Self, analyst with Toronto-based Burns Fry, said she believes the selling price will be "considerably higher than the speculated price range," being circulated in the Canadian press. Self said the report in area newspapers that the prices might be as low as $75 million could have piqued Woolworth's interest.

David Currie, senior vp, property and development at Woolworth, Canada, said it was not price that caught their interest since the company did not know what bids were being offered for Towers. Currie would not comment on whether he thought the speculated price range was low for the Towers chain. At presstime, Currie said Woolworth had received no response to its letter to Tower's parent.

"There is a pretty good fit between our company and Towers," Currie said. When asked whether Woolworth would convert Towers to Woolco stores if an acquisition were made, he said, "it would be premature to speculate on any change in name." The 146 Woolco stores average 125,000 square feet while Towers prototype sizes are 70,000 square feet and 50,000 square feet.

Currie believes the company's U.S. parent would come to the aid of Woolworth, Canada, if necessary. "Woolworth internationally has shown a willingness to make acquisitions," he said.

Woolworth's sales in 1989 - including Woolco, and 196 Woolworth and Robinson general merchandise stores - were $2.2 billion (Canadian). Zellers' sales last year were also $2.2 billion. Towers annual volume was $553 million in 1989.

If Zellers were to acquire the chain, the retailer would come close to Sears Canada's 20% share of the roughly $14 billion department store and junior department store business in Canada. Zellers would also make into a chasm the current sales and market share gap between itself and competitors such as K mart Canada, Metropolitan Stores and Giant Tiger.

K mart stores (K mart, Bargain Harold's and Kresge) generated sales of $1.3 billion; Metropolitan Stores were estimated to be under $100 million, and Giant Tiger's volume was $163 million last year.

Paul Walters, president of 218-unit Zellers, told DSN that Towers falls into the chain's overall growth scheme. "We are very interested in expanding our business in areas where we've seen voids, either by working with developers or pursuing other avenues." Towers presents an opportunity to quickly expand into Toronto, a market where Zellers operates only a handful of stores, but where Towers has 12.

Walters went on to say that if Zellers' parent Hudson Bay were to succeed in acquiring Towers, the stores would be converted to the Zellers format. There are about 10 Towers stores that are in competition with Zellers. Walters said it would be premature to discuss which - if any - Towers units would be closed.

The Towers acquisition would bring Zellers closer to its goal of operating a total of nearly 350 stores nationwide. "As it stands, we're about half-way toward our optimal market penetration," Walters noted. "Presuming the purchase of Towers, we would still want to expand by another 70 to 80 units."

Walters compares Zellers to Wal-Mart in terms of its productivity, and suggests that Zellers' return on assets could even be superior to WalMart's. Towers is likened to Target due to its fashion orientation.

Vancouver Sun, October 5, 1990