Is it time that independents gave up on retail and instead concentrated on the professional side of their businesses? Ross Ferguson investigates.

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Omni-channel opportunity?

It seems that the success of pharmacy retailers isn’t only down to the ability to offer products more cheaply, but to provide the right range of products in a way that is convenient for patients.

Managing director of LloydsPharmacy, Cormac Tobin’s comments about the trading performance in 2015 provide some clues to their strategy: “Our strategy is working – we’re offering people authority and authenticity through our knowledgeable and inspired colleagues, and through our product range.

“The heart of what we do will always be health and wellbeing, and the strength of our derma skin and pain management categories demonstrate our expertise in these areas,” he explains.

Other contributors to the sales success included being at the centre of communities, listening to patients and adapting as a result: “Patients told us what they like and don’t like and over the past two years we’ve been streamlining our product range to be more focused.

“We’ve also invested significantly to become more flexible to patients’ needs and lifestyles by improving our website content and navigation, and by introducing click and collect, which have really brought our omni-channel approach to life.”

Competition time

So, should independents try to compete with other retailers? Cathy Crossthwaite, Numark’s marketing co-ordinator, believes they can and they should: “Independent pharmacies should definitely compete with multiple and supermarket pharmacies on retail goods and services, and they can do it through expert advice and excellent customer service.

"The experience for patients should feel less rushed and impersonal than it would in a larger retail chain or supermarket.”

However, she says, key to this is training: “Counter staff should be appropriately trained to handle all types of enquiries, from ailment and symptoms through to retail focused questions.

"The patients should have confidence in the advice and recommendation they are receiving from any member of staff within the pharmacy.

“Services are available through pharmacy that wouldn’t be available via other retailers and supermarkets, such as travel/flu vaccine services.

"These are a key selling point for pharmacy and can in turn transfer sales to the retail section of the business.”

Join us again tomorrow for more on patient motivation and merchandising tactics.