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Retail Pharmacy

There I have said it. The President said it yesterday, some people seem not to have liked the phrase and I have said it today.

Retail is the process of selling goods and services to customers in small quantities – ie individual transactions and not wholesale.

Selling is a funny thing in the NHS for independent contractors. The GPs are struggling because they can’t sell things; the community pharmacies are struggling because they won’t sell things, the optometrists are struggling because one of their own sell things cheaply and the dentists – well the dentists are doing very well because they sell everything.

Retail seems to be a little like a bad smell – something we turn our noses up to and say that we would rather be ‘community pharmacies’. We are part of the NHS and we only do safe dispensing of medicines. Get real – we are an independent contractor – a stand-alone business with a large, but shrinking contract with the NHS. And incidentally an NHS that does not value our work to the level of previous years and wants us to focus on other things – including retail.

Retail, retail, retail, retail, retail.

It is a bit like an old Tommy Cooper gag – ‘man walks into a pharmacy -…..’ you can make up your own ending from ‘what no prescription’ to ‘thank you for that advice, product, service I feel much better’.

I have tried to explain this before. People buy from a community pharmacy – community pharmacy does not sell to people. So the manufacturer has to pay a fortune in advertising and another fortune to wholesalers and then for planogram placement and then for awareness and training with the forlorn hope that someone will go into the pharmacy and buy it.

Price is what you pay and value is what you get. Sadly the NHS focusses totally on their definition of cost-effectiveness – an acceptable level of effectiveness at the lowest price. People don’t always want to buy cheap – they understand the phrase cost-effectiveness and the fact that you may have to pay a bit more to get increased effectiveness. We are experts in cost-effectiveness and value, are cognoscente of peoples’ budgets and not a slave to cheap. Don’t get me wrong – I am not advocating expensive brands where low cost equivalents are available – it is all about balance.

The community pharmacy that survives will reach out to people – no boundaries – discover their needs – and sell something – whether it is advice, a product or a service. It is a pro-activity that is needed in the pharmacy. On average every pharmacy is responsible for 5,000 residents and passing trade – surely they have a few health needs? The prescription is an aid and a confounder. For example I could have a prescription for asthma and I should think hayfever and eczema and what I could offer to a person with diabetes from their predictable needs. It also doesn’t mean bullying people until they see the error of their ways – it means working with them to consider their health related goals. And please save people from dodgy chat rooms – get them in the pharmacy and give them the right advice.

Heaven forbid that you will have to market your services. It is much better to hide the facts and hope that someone walks in looks around and walks out. They should be flocking in saying ‘I know you do….’. Ah stuff it – stick another poster in the window – that’s marketing. Put a poster saying ‘we do MURs’ – I am sure that plenty of people will come in and ask for one of those.

What are we trying to create? Every Pharmacy should be a professional, clinical, retail, healthcare, environment. It should have the look and feel of a GP practice. Don’t say ‘come into my converted broom cupboard – don’t mind the crates we have just had a delivery’. Say ‘come into my spacious, rather beautiful clinical room with a few bits of kit that makes me look like the professional that I really am’.

Am I shallow thinking that it is all about image? Of course – it may just be me that wants to walk into a clean and bright pharmacy, invited into a professional looking consulting room with the phrase ‘the pharmacist will see you now’, find a professional looking pharmacist who smiles and tells me their name.

In conclusion ‘retail’ isn’t our bogey word – it is our saviour. Embrace it and start doing it properly.

 

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About markmandc (249 Articles)
A pharmacist with experience working in secondary care, primary care, community pharmacy and general practice.

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