Pharmacy sales in the UK increased to the highest levels on record, thanks to the sector's heightened role in the Covid-19 pandemic, property brokers Christie & Co have said. 

Over 145 pharmacies were sold in 2021 - of which 80% were independents - this marks the highest ever volume of pharmacy sales since Christie & Co started in the sector over a decade ago, a spokesperson for the broker told The Pharmacist today (19 January).  

Both the appetite for pharmacies and the competitive activity around their sales increased throughout 2021, the brokers said. 

In its annual business outlook report, published today, Christie & Co reported an average of five offers per pharmacy sold in 2021, which is an 11% increase on 2019 and a 31% increase on activity in 2020. 

Pharmacy’s ‘enhanced reputation’ 

This ‘increased appetite’ in the pharmacy sector reflects the ‘enhanced reputation’ pharmacies developed over the pandemic, Simon Hughes, managing director of the medical team at Christie & Co explained in a webinar.  

‘Both pharmacy and the dentistry sector markets were busy in 2021, as people realised the importance of both sectors over the pandemic’, he said.  

Demand for independents remained high, with Scotland performing particularly well, due to the ‘strong income throughout the year’ coupled with a ‘relatively low number of pharmacies available on the market’, the brokers said. 

Christie & Co attributed the increase in trade within Scottish pharmacies to the Pharmacy First Scheme - where patients can visit a pharmacy for consultation and treatment of minor illnesses.  

Online pharmacies  

According to the brokers, online pharmacies saw more than a two-fold increase in their dispensing volumes in 2021 compared with pre-pandemic, as more people were confined to indoors. 

However, Christie & Co noted that ‘bricks and mortar’ pharmacies are ‘more than capable’ of competing with their online competitors by morphing into ‘bricks and clicks’ structures.

These hybrid online-in person pharmacies, otherwise known as ‘bricks and clicks',  pharmacies would create ''stickiness’ to the patient, whilst offering the same services and value that only traditional pharmacies can deliver’, the brokers said.  

‘A year of brisk activity ahead’ 

Tony Evans, head of pharmacy at Christie & Co, said that 2022 had ‘kicked off with volumes of positive deal activity’ and that ‘sales completions and purchaser appetite [were] remaining strong, so we foresee yet another year of brisk activity ahead.’.  

In its report, Christie & Co predicted a ‘continuation of strong deal activity,’ in both independent and group sales. 

It also predicted that the role of pharmacy will expand as it increases the delivery of services as the effects of the pandemic ease. 

Reflecting on last year, Mr Evans said that 2021 had been a ‘busy year for pharmacy, both in terms of the continued support the sector provided to the wider pandemic response and from a market perspective where significant activity was witnessed’.  

In December, The Pharmacist looked into what major players in the pharmacy multiples had been consolidating their business positions and what might the knock-on effects for independents be.