In the rapidly-changing world of pharmacy, sometimes store renovations just aren’t enough to transform a business.
By Talbot Boggs
Three years ago, Rubicon Pharmacies and Rosetown Pharmasave, in Rosetown, SK, purchased a competitor in the farming community of 2,500 people and amalgamated the two businesses into one, absorbing all inventory and staff into the 5,000 sq. ft. store. Before the purchase, Debbie McCulloch had been the managing partner of the Pharmasave store. After the amalgamation, Randy McIntyre joined Debbie as co-manager of the newly formed business.
The store underwent renovations, but, as became apparent, it couldn’t be modified to the size and standards necessary to meet customers’ needs, and provide the clinical and consulting services that are becoming an essential part of the expanding scope of practice and new pharmacy business model.
Time for a fresh start – and the building of a brand new 9,000 sq. ft. pharmacy on some vacant land in the town, at a cost of about $1.8 million. The new pharmacy opened to the public last October.
“The old dispensary was really only designed for one pharmacist, and the whole store was very cramped,” McCulloch recalls. “We didn’t even have a designated private consultation room and used to go around the store looking for a room or space where we could meet with our patients. The business had just grown too big and the facilities were completely inadequate to offer the clinical and consultation services you need to provide today to run a successful pharmacy business.”
The new store features a modern dispensary, large, spacious frontshop and meeting areas and rooms ideally suited to meet the new requirements of pharmacy. The highlight of the store is what McCulloch calls the “gathering room,” the idea for which came from another pharmacy in the group, which created a similar one.
The 400 sq. ft. room is outfitted with a large table, 30 chairs, cupboards, a sink and a microwave oven. McCulloch either rents it out or makes it available at no charge to external groups and organizations or for internal presentations, seminars and meetings, most often on health-related topics.
The new store also features a modern, up-to-date, 625 sq. ft. dispensary with room for two pharmacists and three technicians and/or assistants. It has an outer counter with intake and outtake sections, a patient waiting area, blister packing capability to service two local nursing/retirement homes and increased prescription volumes and professional services from a new health clinic opening up across the street, and a 120 sq. ft. counselling room.
The larger dispensary is ideally suited to help the pharmacy better serve and consult with customers, and enable staff to fulfill an expanded scope of practice in the province, which includes prescribing medications for minor ailments.
The new pharmacy also features a large 6,250 sq. ft. frontshop with spacious 7 ft. wide aisles for scooters and walkers, as well as significantly expanded and improved cosmetic, giftware and home healthcare sections, and new electronic doors. McCulloch has also hired a dedicated frontshop manager to meet the growing needs of her customers.
The cosmetics section was strategically located next to the main entrance. “We really felt we needed to highlight this section and improve the selection of products,” McCulloch notes. “There’s no one else in town selling much for cosmetics and we were losing a lot of customers who would travel all the way to Saskatoon, about an hour each way, to get what they wanted.”
McCulloch also expanded the home healthcare section and giftware, both of which show good potential, and included a traditional confectionery offering with soft drinks and snacks.
The transformation of the pharmacy is clearly paying off. Since the new store opened, cosmetic sales have increased by more than 75 per cent, greeting cards by 40 per cent, and customer visits by more than 25 per cent. The changes and additions have created a warm, welcoming environment. Customers have access to a much larger selection of products and access to a much greater suite of professional services than McCulloch could have provided in the old location.