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Creating a healthy retail space

It’s important to make the most of all employee skills when it comes to retail sales

Emma Charlesworth, communications manager at Numark, explains how independents can improve their retail offering and turn prescription collectors into shoppers

Nowadays, from a customer’s point of view, a good retail environment is a given. We’re used to the easy-to-navigate layout in supermarkets and large chain pharmacies, so naturally have the same expectations for independents too.

Many independents find it a challenge to maximise the potential for retail sales that their prescription footfall can deliver. With more OTC products being bought during the monthly or weekly shop and heavy competition on price, OTC sales have seen a distinct decline. The split between retail and prescription business is now around 90/10, compared to more like 80/20 just 10 years ago.

This means that pharmacies must make their retail space work harder for them. If their retail space isn’t optimised, independents run the risk of losing all-important prescription revenue. In fact, Numark research found that eight out of 10 customers would not revisit a pharmacy to pick up a prescription if the shop environment wasn’t up to standard.

From the window display, to product offering and shop layout, there are specific improvements independent community pharmacists can and should be making, to ensure their profit from retail sales is as strong as it can be.

Start on the outside

Many pharmacy customers will make a beeline for the counter when collecting a prescription and ignore the retail space altogether, so it’s important to entice them right from the start.

While customers shop with peripheral vision and are often hungry for new information, the exteriors of pharmacies are notorious for having too many messages and adverts, which leads to confusion. Every pharmacy – both inside and out – must accurately represent the services it offers and have simple, relevant information in order to draw customers in.

Shoppers have a short attention span and if they cannot find what they’re looking for quickly, they’ll give up and go somewhere else, so crowded aisles or misleading displays should be avoided. All products and shelving should be kept clean and dust free at all times. If a selection of products looks dirty, the customer could be led to believe they are out of date or unpopular and not make a purchase.

While the core offering for any pharmacy is the medicines it sells, having too much stock crammed onto shelves impairs navigation. Furthermore, a less cluttered shelf actually gives the impression of a larger product range.

The optimum number of retail products in pharmacy is around 2,500, although the majority of independents stock up to 6,000 – this can turn into a headache for both customers and staff.

Most pharmacy wholesalers provide deliveries twice a day, so if something isn’t in stock at any given time, it can be delivered within a day. This is a service unique to pharmacies and is something the grocery competition can’t compete with, so independents should be talking about this to their customers and offering them a service they can’t get elsewhere.

Use the whole team

It’s important to make the most of all employee skills when it comes to retail sales. A simple “your prescription will be about five minutes, please take a look around the shop while you wait” from counter staff may seem like a small change, but it could actually be the key to significantly boosting retail sales.

If all employees adopt a positive, enthusiastic approach and a fraction of these encounters materialise into sales, it will make a real difference to the business. Counter staff also have the advantage of building
a relationship with regular customers, maintaining the reputation that independents are close to their local community.

By promoting the personal touches, independents can recognise when a patient is returning with the same medical complaint on a regular basis and discuss a tailored solution to tackle the problem effectively.

Alternatively, counter staff can have a discussion with the pharmacist, which reassures customers more effectively than advice from a standard retail assistant. Again, it’s all about recognising the unique selling points of your pharmacy over discount or general stores and making the most of them.

The bigger picture

With budget cuts on the horizon, independents should be taking advantage of the opportunities that a solid retail offering brings. Some may consider these changes a big project that will take up a lot of time and investment. But in reality, many have little or no cost attached.

Equally, there are resources on hand to help. Numark’s role is to help independent pharmacies during this process and provide continual support throughout.

As more services emerge, independents must ensure that their retail offering doesn’t suffer. When done well, independents can create a space where patients feel comfortable asking for advice, collecting prescriptions and making use of the services on offer, and that also increases revenue from the retail side of the business.

In an increasingly competitive market, implementing these small changes can make a real difference. Providing customers with amenities that other retailers can’t, such as a complete healthcare package consisting of products, services, advice and prescriptions, can help to boost your pharmacy’s bottom line.

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