* Aims to boost size of existing stores
* To relocate, expand 61 stores this year
* To relocate, expand another 71 stores in 2010
* Shares up 0.6 percent at C$43.22 (Adds company comments, background)
TORONTO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Shoppers Drug Mart SC.TO, Canada’s biggest pharmacy chain, intends to take advantage of weak conditions in the commercial real estate market to expand existing stores or move them to bigger premises, its chief executive said on Tuesday.
Jurgen Schreiber, the company’s president and CEO, told a retail conference in Toronto that Shoppers is expanding or relocating 61 stores this year, with another 71 stores targeted for 2010.
The company says that by yearend, only 624 of its more than 1,260 existing stores will be less than 10,000 square feet. Shoppers says its target is between 13,500 and 14,500 square feet of selling space.
Schreiber said the company will also open new stores across the country in the next few years with significant focus on Western Canada and Quebec, noting that those two regions are “completely under-penetrated with our brand”.
He said the company must also continue to concentrate on development in Canada’s top 10 urban areas if it is to get the return it wants. In its key Ontario market, Shoppers has a rule of operating a store for every 15,000 people.
In the quarter to the end of July, Shoppers opened or bought 27 drugstores, eight of which were relocations. At that time, the company had 1,259 stores, including 1,159 drugstores and 66 Shoppers Home Health Care stores, which supply medical equipment and devices, and two Murale stores, a stand-alone luxury beauty brand it opened last year.
Shoppers shares, which have fallen 21 percent in the past year, were up 0.6 percent at C$43.22 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday afternoon.
$1=$1.07 Canadian Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Peter Galloway