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RETAIL


supermarkets and cut-price stores but from online retailers. There’s only so far that we can go in terms of competing price wise and so we have to be smart and compete instead service-wise.


‘If, for example, a customer comes in looking for a particular product from, say, our Nature’s Aid range, then they’re coming in to us because they’re looking for more information on that product. They’re also checking about both the medication itself and about possible contraindications with other medicines that they may be taking. Equally, they may have heard about, or read about the benefits of say vitamin D and want to know more before beginning to take this product. Again, they will come in to us for advice and information: service and support that simply isn’t available either in supermarkets or through online retailers, and that’s where the community pharmacy can not only compete but can stand head and shoulders above any other type of retailer.’


Many of the pharmacists we spoke to agreed that it’s vital for a pharmacy to have excellent customer buying knowledge and, if necessary, to adapt to the changing nature of its environment.


When the SSE Hydro opened near the Argyle Street branch of Reach Pharmacy in Glasgow, it was obvious that the pharmacy had to alter its retail offering to suit its new customers.


‘When the SSE Hydro opened near our pharmacy,’ says manager, Mohammed Haq, ‘the whole landscape and demograph of the area changed. For a start, a lot of new hotels and restaurants opened in the area and the pharmacy was suddenly surrounded by loads of cafés and bars that were full of both young and older people.


‘Needless to say, house prices in the area also shot up and it became almost like a new West End, with both an older community with disposable income and an increasing number of professionals coming into the district.


‘The fact that our demograph changed dramatically was one of the deciding factors behind our increased retail range. The increased number of bars and clubs saw a subsequent rise in the number of people – mainly chefs and cooking staff – coming in with burns and cuts. One of our staff members – Caroline – has been here


for more than 30 years and she is an expert when it comes to injuries like this, so her skills have been greatly put into use. She constantly drives retail in this sector!


‘Conversely, however, we are also very close to the university and so a lot of our patients are students. Our staff member Tasmiah is only in her 20s, so she tends to connect well with this demograph.


‘For us, customer demand is something that has to be met at any cost. Since we have two other pharmacies within half a mile each way, we are very aware of the competition and so we promise our customers that if they asked for something in the morning, we will have it by the afternoon.


‘This is particularly important when it comes to the increased number of visitors to the area because of events at the SEC. Visitors can come in needing everything from medication for migraines and tummy ailments, to make-up for evenings out. Our travel clinic, meanwhile, covers everything from mosquito sprays to first-aid kits, while our sexual health clinic covers sales of contraceptive products. Put simply, we work on the basis that the footfall is here and so the products have to be here. It’s that simple!’


While Reach Pharmacy’s retail was directed very much by the changing nature of the local area, on the Calder estate in south-west Edinburgh, contractor Charles Shanks was finding that retail in his pharmacy was stagnating and that a ‘footfall injection’ was required.


Unfortunately, the local demograph was such that disposable income was scarce and shoppers tended to buy on the basis of need rather than want. But, at the beginning of last year, when the local Post Office decided to close, Charles realised that he had an opportunity to not only ensure that his patients still had access to much-needed post office services, but also to increase the footfall in his own pharmacy and ultimately increase his retail sales.


‘Like many pharmacies, we found that a lot of our prescriptions were being ordered, filled and then delivered, which meant that, although we had a lot of patients – particularly since we are located in the middle of a housing estate – we would rarely see many of them. So, when the Post Office closed in February of last year, I decided to


Calder Pharmacy


bring the Post Office facility into the pharmacy. This meant that, while patients could have their prescriptions delivered to their home – saving them from actually coming into the pharmacy - they had to come into the shop for postal and benefit services.


‘Once we have them in the shop, it’s relatively easy to interest them in buying other products. To do that, we have to compete price wise and, to do that, we have to try to buy at the best prices. Needless to say, in trying to beat the competition by selling at the cheapest prices, we spend an exorbitant amount of time in sourcing the right products at the right prices!’


Charles’ move has proved a major success. In the year since he subsumed the Post Office into his small pharmacy, his retail has doubled.


‘I’m delighted with the way that things have worked out. The increase in the retail isn’t just confined to one section either – it’s right across the board. We’ve doubled our sales of both toiletries and household goods simply by increasing the footfall in the pharmacy, albeit many people don’t technically come into the pharmacy looking for retail. It’s been a real success!’


In Pitlochry in Tayside, meanwhile, Davidsons Chemist has, as with many pharmacies, found itself in a position where it has to be ‘all things to all people’; catering for both its residential patients and customers and for its ‘transient community’ of tourists.


‘As a company,’ says Davidsons Managing Director, Allan Gordon, ‘we generally tend to concentrate on dispensing rather than retail. In fact,


some years ago, we made a conscious decision to distance ourselves from selling OTCs apart from p/GSL meds etc. We do, however, have a few branches that are still fairly big on OTC due to being in high tourist areas.


‘One of those branches is the Pitlochry branch, which recently underwent a refit. While many of today’s pharmacies tend to expand their dispensary when undergoing a refit, the fact that we retained the size of the front of shop area at this branch.


‘I think the main reason why this branch is so heavily involved in retail is that, perhaps surprisingly, despite the fact that Pitlochry is very popular with tourists, there’s no supermarket in the area and, as a result, both the tourists and the locals buy their toiletries from the pharmacy.


‘The widely-spread demograph is clearly obvious in the range of products on offer, with the branch selling both luxury lines such as Roger & Gallet and Bromley AND pound lines! It’s vital at Pitlochry that we cater for everyone across the board; from the tourists who are looking for toiletries, to wedding guests who are looking for make-up.’


Having spoken to so many pharmacists about their retail activity, what’s clear is that, in today’s market, pharmacy has to be all things to all people simply to hold its own in competition with other retailers; no mean feat when you consider that you’re also providing a vital healthcare role for your local communities. •


SCOTTISH PHARMACIST - 47


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