The idea of opening a “refillery,” as we’re calling it, has been rolling around in the back of my mind for a long time now. Similar to the idea of Bulk Barn, where you can buy all sorts of bulk ingredients for cooking, and even bring your own containers, and modelled after amazing refill concept stores in Vancouver and Toronto, The Apothecary in Inglewood now offers refill services on everything from clays to salts and carrier oils to laundry detergent, from herbs to shampoo and deodorant.
I was first inspired by The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver as well as The Karma Co-op in Toronto. I knew that there was nothing like this in Calgary, and there was definitely a receptive market for such a thing. The idea of being the first to bring this service to the Calgary market was exciting — and it’s even more so now that we’ve actually done it!
Our customers are excited, yes, and we appreciate that energy and support so very much. But this also means exciting changes within the store. We are offering a whole new range of products in the store, and working with suppliers in new and exciting ways, such as creating agreements to offer refills on products that have not been available in that form before.
We are cutting costs on many products, most notably carrier oils, raw materials and packaging, thanks to a change in our pricing strategy. Moving to the refill concept has cut down on the packaging we need to use and the labour that goes into each product — each oil or raw material now needs just one bottle and one label, rather than all the small ones to go on the shelf. The bulk of the labour happens in the store at the point of purchase, which costs me less than having staff fill and label all the small bottles.
Overall, we are working smarter instead of harder.
Staff morale is high because we are all learning new things and challenging ourselves in new ways, and the possibilities are exciting. We have also changed the layout of the store, and we are IN LOVE with how it turned out.
All of this has been causing a paradigm shift for me. I’m noticing a shift in how I live -- caused, I believe, by the refill concept and the questions it has spurred me to ask when I look around at the world and especially at consumerism. We’re carrying reusable bags everywhere we go in my personal life, and will soon start charging for bags in the store. Everywhere I look, I’m noticing ways to make life simpler, and I can’t help but think… Why not change your pricing strategy to make this lifestyle more affordable for people?
The refillery component of The Apothecary is only available in-store, for obvious logistical reasons, but I’m encouraging all our friends and customers, far and wide, to adopt the ideas in their own way. Ask your local shop if this is a service they could offer, and bring a jar to fill. Bring your own container for takeout food. Find a refillery or bulk store near you, or hey — start one in your community!
It takes a little while to build the habit, but start with one thing and work your way up. It’s amazing how fast the change will come about once you get rolling. We would love to hear about your experiences living a low- or zero-waste lifestyle, and any tips you might have!