Is starting an aesthetics clinic in your pharmacy the right move for you? Beth Gault talks to one Kent contractor who has already taken the plunge
Non-surgical cosmetic treatments are on the rise. A report by consumer analysis firm Mintel in February found that 62% of adults either have experience of non-surgical cosmetic treatments or would be interested in having one in the future.
The report, which surveyed 1,947 adults, found that 46% agree that non-invasive procedures are now a normal part of people’s beauty routine. Treatments are also becoming more readily available. High street multiple Superdrug announced it was rolling out non-surgical cosmetic procedures this month, starting with its store on The Strand in London.
Save Face, a national register of accredited practitioners providing non-surgical cosmetic treatments, says the sector is now worth over £2.75 billion in the UK. So how can pharmacies grab a piece of the action?
Sensing the opportunity
Pharmacist Amish Patel set up Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic in July 2016, and now has multiple patients coming through the door every week.
Mr Patel, who owns Hodgson Pharmacy in Longfield, Kent, initially took interest in cosmetic treatments five years ago after hearing of botched surgeries in the tabloids. He saw the demand and the availability of his consultation room, and thought he could provide a ‘safe place’ for treatments.
However, finding training and insurance for pharmacists to do aesthetics treatments was difficult.
‘It went on the back burner as an idea and I just kept an eye on it. Then about two years ago I found a training company and within a month I was booked on,’ says Mr Patel.
That company was Derma Medical, which offers training courses for various health professionals, including pharmacists.
Mr Patel trained in medical aesthetics, which involved two days of practical work. His clinic also employs a GP who is trained in aesthetics and works ad hoc depending on availability and demand. Mr Patel is hoping to expand into minor surgeries in the near future, such as mole removal, which will be performed by the GP.
Services on offer
For now, Intrigue offers Botox anti-wrinkle injections, dermal fillers – which plump out the skin – skincare treatments and advice for things like pigmentation and acne. Mr Patel added thread lifts to his treatment list this year, which involves the same material as dissolvable stitches threaded into the face to give a non-surgical facelift.
Mr Patel offers an initial consultation before procedures to make sure the treatment is appropriate for patients. Sometimes they want more injections following their first treatment.
‘Botox isn’t an exact science. Everyone’s muscles are different. The amount of Botox people need varies. We’ll start them off with an initial dosing, review it after two weeks and top up if required,’ says Mr Patel.
All of this is included in the price, which starts at £200 for Botox or for 0.5ml of filler. Thread lifts are pricier at £1,200, but Intrigue also offers facials that start at £80.
The initial cost for setting up a clinic is close to £10,000, says Mr Patel. With at least £2,000 for initial training, £700 for insurance, £300 per year for waste collection, £1,000 for an electronic beauty couch and £2,000 on initial stock, plus the hire cost of a clinic room on top of that.
Mr Patel says he then spent around £3,000 on branding and marketing to promote the business, including posters, leaflets, a logo, paid posts on Facebook and Instagram and search engine optimisation (SEO).
‘It was probably about nine months before we were breaking even. Our uptake was quite slow at the start. I thought putting a few posters up in the pharmacy would mean it would take off as a service, considering we have good footfall. It wasn’t like that at all. Quite quickly we learnt that a completely different marketing strategy to what we were used to was needed,’ says Mr Patel.
Another marketing move he made was to brand the clinic as a separate business to his pharmacy, despite working out of one of the pharmacy’s consultation rooms.
‘I didn’t think Hodgson Cosmetic Clinic had much of a ring to it. It was never going to work. So we came up with the name Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic,’ says Mr Patel, who would recommend other pharmacists explore the idea of setting up their own clinic.
‘You need to be an independent prescriber. It’s not like a travel clinic whereby you just put an injection in someone’s arm. There’s a lot more required by way of skill and injection technique.’
‘But it’s a whole other revenue stream that previously pharmacy wasn’t getting into. When I qualified ten years ago, I didn’t think this opportunity would come along,’ he says.
Benefits of the service
Another benefit is the increase in footfall and the average distance people travel to visit the pharmacy, Mr Patel says.
‘I’ve got one lady who flies in from Scotland down to Kent to see me. I get people from all around North London and so on. The average journey time of my patients would be at least 25-30 minutes.’
This increase has led to greater uptake of travel vaccines and over the counter purchases.
There are challenges to the process though, such as the ‘hurdle’ of buying the Botox itself.
Pharmacists are not allowed to hold Botox stock, so when a patient comes to them wanting treatment, the pharmacist either needs to write a prescription to a pharmacy that does hold Botox,=, or buy the stock directly from the wholesaler when the patient comes in.
Initially, you also need to build a portfolio of work and testimonials about the service, as the treatment is all about ‘creating a look’.
However, Mr Patel assures that it is possible.
‘There were a few who were willing to be a guinea pig,’ he says.
‘But you’re not going to know if you’ve got the skill or not until you get going. Even for me, it wasn’t like, “Oh I’m going to be great at that.” It’s only when I got feedback from customers that I thought I’m actually not too bad.’