Pharmacies perform a vital function, operating as an all-important link between medical professionals and the general public. For many years, so-called “community” pharmacies met this need – much to the satisfaction of the people who owned the pharmacy and the local community, who could always be confident they would be able to obtain the medication they had been prescribed.
However, over the past 20 years, community pharmacies have become less common. While there are many reasons for this change, the most significant factor is the threat posed by large supermarket chains. Major retailers began to include pharmacies within their stores, which allowed customers to combine errands, teaming the weekly shop with the prescription collection. As a result, independent pharmacies soon began to vanish, unable to compete with the negotiating power and size of the major retail chains.
Due to these changes to the pharmacy landscape, anyone contemplating opening an independent community pharmacy may be concerned about the viability of such a project. However, it is worth noting that community pharmacies can be viable in 2019 – and here are three particular ideas that can help you to make it work.
Focus on accessibility
One of the downsides of pharmacies located in major supermarket chains is that the pharmacy itself is usually located at the center of the store – which is not particularly accessible for people with disabilities. With an independent pharmacy, however, accessibility is far easier to achieve; the store is smaller to begin with, and you can look to offer nearby parking that greatly reduces the distance from the car to counter.
To compete with major retailers, modern independent pharmacies need to be ahead of the curve when it comes to the benefits of technology. In particular, automation is an essential tool, helping to streamline and expedite the provision of a wide range of pharmacy services; and with innovative companies such as ARxIUM, pharmacy automation is now highly accessible. By opting for automation you free up time and staff availability elsewhere, so exploring these options can help you to provide a fast, efficient, cost-effective service to your patients while also simplifying your own operational processes.
Go niche with your retail options
It will come as no surprise to you that most community pharmacies choose to also act as a retail store in order to bolster their profits. However, what you choose to stock can greatly influence the viability of the retail side of your business. Many pharmacies will stock over-the-counter medication, toiletries, and similar products, but it’s often tough to offer these products at prices comparable to major chains, which makes them less attractive to customers.
It is therefore worth experimenting with niche health products that go far beyond the product ranges available at supermarket chains; think glucose monitors, testing strips, pill cutters, medicine boxes, kinesiology tape, and so on and so forth. You can still offer the standard product range if you wish, but it’s worth focusing primarily on unusual health products that customers would usually have to buy online due to lack of offline options.
While major retail pharmacies have presented challenges for community pharmacies, the independently-owned pharmacy still has a place in modern society – particularly if the four ideas above are included in the overall business model.