Holland & Barrett begins trial to stock OTC medicines in 20 London stores
By Neil Trainis
Holland & Barrett is stocking over-the-counter medicines in 20 of its branches in London as part of a trial as it attempts to expand its appeal to customers.
The health food retailer is selling general sales list OTC products covering painkillers, cough and cold, gastrointestinal, women’s health, skin treatments and hayfever , among other areas, during the trial which started two weeks ago.
It is not clear how long the trial will last and it is thought an end date with a view to a nationwide launch across its 700 branches in the UK is dependent on the feedback the company gets from customers.
A Holland & Barrett spokesperson told Independent Community Pharmacist : “At Holland & Barrett we’re known for offering a wide range of innovative products to help our customers stay well, however, they’ve told us that sometimes they would like more immediate relief too.
“That’s why we’re trialling a selected range of medicines and healthcare products in around 20 stores, which is a range extension to give our customers more options to take control of their health and wellness.”
Some may interpret Holland & Barrett’s decision to stock GSL OTC medicines as a direct challenge to large pharmacy chains and it is entering a lucrative market. According to the consumer healthcare association, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), the OTC sector generates £3.3 billion in sales revenues annually.
PAGB CEO Michelle Riddalls revealed Holland & Barrett has joined it as a member and said its “decision to widen” its portfolio “to include over-the-counter medicines is positive news for consumers.”
“This will help even more people to self-care and take ownership of their health and well-being," she said.
In January this year, Holland & Barrett appointed former Walgreens Boots Alliance co-chief operating officer Alex Gourlay as its executive chairman. A source told ICP : “Alex is one of the brightest, sharpest operators around and he’ll help take Holland & Barrett into an exciting new era in health.”
Holland & Barrett’s move could also threaten the OTC revenue streams of independent pharmacies. However, Gareth Jones, the director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, played down that concern.
"The public comes to community pharmacies for a wide range of reasons including the opportunity to get advice and clinical services from a pharmacist, to collect prescription and pharmacy medicines, as well as to purchase OTC medicines," he said.
"Millions of people go to community pharmacies every week and that won’t change significantly with one additional retailer offering OTC medicines."