Today when walking into a pharmacy, you would be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into a retail variety store, surrounded by shelving, displays and bulk stacks filled with a wide range of retail products. Everything from cosmetics to food items, gift ideas to cleaning products, they take up much of the front of the store. The dispensary generally occupies a small area at the rear, with traditional pharmacy items taking a back seat.
This focus on retail has a lot to do with the pharmacy industry experiencing a reduction in profits in recent years, largely due to the prices of common prescription medications being lowered as part of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). In response, pharmacies have had to find new ways to regain profits, with those failing to adapt or innovate, struggling to stay afloat.
Filling the shop floor with retail products has become a popular solution, in the hope of attracting a larger number of customers into the store, as well as encouraging additional purchases while customers wait for their scripts to be filled or, enter the pharmacy to purchase a single item.
This change has seen a shift in the role of Pharmacy Assistants whose sole responsibility once upon a time, was to provide customers with advice about their medications and pharmacy items in relation to their health conditions. Whereas today, they are expected to sell a wide range of products that aren’t necessarily ‘must have’ items, requiring a completely different set of skills.
In fact they require sales skills, such as being able to uncover customers’ wants and not just their medical or health needs, as well as build value in products, encouraging customers to not only purchase one item but the complete solution. Showing companion items on the retail shop floor and from the dispensary to ensure customers obtain the best health outcome possible, is a big part of ensuring complete customer satisfaction as well as increasing profits.
This can be a major hurdle for pharmacy owners, with their staff not seeing themselves as having a sales element to their role and struggling to accept the shift in mindset. These new behaviours and the intent to apply them, can take time and ongoing support to develop.
When a pharmacy has invested a large percentage of their floor space to retail, they also need to invest in training to provide their teams with the skills needed to confidently sell these products, while still maintaining a duty of care and customer focus.