Lifestyle lures are keeping the pharmacy market buoyant in the South West, reports Jonathan Board, director at Christie & Co

We have regional offices in Bristol, Exeter and Winchester covering the whole of the South West of England. Over the last year we have seen significant activity and demand in the pharmacy market fuelled, in the main, by a lack of available pharmacies for sale.

This year alone we have completed on seven sales in the region, from Gloucestershire in the north to Cornwall in the south and Hampshire in the east, with a further four currently under offer. The market across the region continues to be very strong, which is very similar to the other areas of the UK. This is a testament to the robustness of the pharmacy market, and the continued confidence that prospective purchasers see for the future of independently run and owned pharmacies.

While there is much concern over the impact that funding changes may have on value, we have seen no evidence of a slowdown in the market nor a reduction in sale prices. On the contrary, values continue to rise as first-time buyers and multiple operators compete for units. Indeed, the competitive tension generated in most sales we handle continues throughout the South West, across all pharmacy types.

Lifestyle choices
When the cuts were announced, there was a presumption that it would be the end of the small community pharmacy. However, small pharmacies have continued to be popular businesses to purchase. The South West in particular offers lifestyle buyers something different than can be found in other areas, in particular the access to beaches, seaside and the national parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor.

There continues to be a large number of first-time buyers looking to get a foothold in the market. With locums seeing a reduction in available hours and their hourly rates – due to operators looking to cut back on costs – many are considering investing in a pharmacy of their own. With financial lending readily available, and ‘the bank of mum and dad’ still prevalent, the decision to buy a site seems simple, but beating off the competition is less so. Competition comes from the small and regional multiple operators who already have a presence in these areas and are continuing to expand.

Smaller chains
While many of the corporate pharmacy operators are showing a lack of activity, regional multiple operators and smaller national chains are still very active, evidenced by a recent Christie & Co brokered deal down in Newquay, Cornwall. This acquisition was a strategic one for the group as it enabled them to secure the vast majority of the dispensing in the area. The South West remains a buoyant market for pharmacies. If you are considering your options, now is a very good time to test the market.

Christie & Co is a specialist pharmacy agent with a team of experts offering advice about buying and selling business on a national, regional and local basis. For initial advice or to discuss the services on offer, contact Tony Evans on 020 7227 0729.

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