The number of first-time pharmacy buyers has increased over the past 12 months as the trend for pharmacy sales has continued, according to pharmacy real estate experts.

The brokers Christie & Co reported a 102% increase in the number of instructions it received from clients between 2018 and 2019, with the number of pharmacy sales bolstered by Rowlands' 'disposal' of 70 pharmacies in England and Wales, it said today (1 July).

Christie & Co said the large number of pharmacies on the market has 'influenced the appetite' of first-time buyers and smaller companies, as the company predicted in its business outlook earlier this year.

Since July 2018, the broker has agreed 135 deals with a rough combined value of £97m, with an increase in sales agreed with first-time buyers and independent contractors, it said.

Demand has also increased from small and medium-sized pharmacy chains 'keen to acquire opportunities to improve their existing portfolios', Christie & Co added.

Head of pharmacy at Christie & Co Tony Evans commented, 'Activity has increased across all regions in the first half of the year, demonstrating continued confidence in the sector’s long-term future.

'While uncertainty remains as the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) continues its funding negotiations, this hasn’t affected the appetite for pharmacy opportunities.

'With recent increases in funding announced in Wales and Scotland, plus additional transitional funding in Northern Ireland, it is hoped that a positive outcome will also be seen in England.'

Head of valuation services – medical at Christie & Co Chris Vowels said: 'Despite uncertainty around the future of funding within England, demand for pharmacy businesses has remained strong, resulting in continued support from the leading lenders within the sector.

'Larger operators are concentrating on reviewing their position within the market from both a business and operational perspective, leading to refinance exercises and consolidation of assets. A number of operators have looked to other parts of the UK, such as Scotland and Wales, and Ireland, where funding arrangements for portfolio expansion are clearer.'