Many pharmacy owners and managers dedicate very little time and resources to their front shop.
By Michael Boivin BSc. Phm.
They feel that by focusing all their efforts on the dispensary, they are more likely to maximize profits in their pharmacy.
Carl Ziegler of Rimbey Pharmasave in Rimbey, Alberta would beg to differ. Front shop has been a keen focus for him since he purchased his pharmacy in 1990. He decided to evolve his front shop from an unprofitable part of his business to a major draw.
“When I purchased the store, the front shop had a bargain store format. It was filled with low-quality, low-priced and unprofitable items,” says the pharmacist. “I realized that a clean, tidy and modern front shop would differentiate my pharmacy from my competitor and that it was a vital component to building a strong prescription business.”
He recognized he had to do something to attract people to his pharmacy. “With the physicians in my community located at a medical centre several blocks away, I knew I needed to develop a complete pharmacy offering to attract patients to my store to fill all of their pharmacy needs, including their prescriptions.”
The keys to converting his front shop to a profitable component of his business, he says, were great staff, proper training, good support, being innovative, and managing time. “Our staff have been crucial in the growth of our front shop. They not only ensure the front shop is neat and fresh-looking, but because they know our patients, they are able to actively promote products they know our clients need.”
Carl’s banner provides him with current planograms that help to ensure he has the latest products for patients. Planograms also give the pharmacy a fresh look in keeping with current consumer trends.
Since focusing on the front shop, the pharmacist has seen tremendous growth in sales of his house-brand product line. “We have trained our staff to actively promote our high-quality house-brand products as they not only provide our patients exceptional value, but also lead to a significantly higher profit margin,” he says.
An actively managed point-of-sale (POS) system is important for any pharmacy owner wanting to grow a profitable front shop. “The key for a successful front shop can be stated simply – stock what people want to buy, and inversely, don’t stock what people don’t want. Not rocket science. But it’s not quite that easy. Without POS history to help make purchasing decisions, that goal would be impossible. Our goal is to ensure we don’t run short on the top items and never have excess stock of poor moving items. POS history helps us know what sales occurred at full margin, what sales occurred at discounted margin and for seasonal items, what sales occurred at clearout margins.”
For Carl Ziegler, the front shop will continue to drive his business. He thinks all pharmacists should keep their eye on what happens in front of the counter.
Carl Ziegler’s top frontshop tips:
- Actively search for niches. “Product lines that are unique and not stocked at mass box stores have often been very successful for us. People are drawn to see something a little different.”
- Invest some time in your front shop. Your front shop needs tweaking and adjustment to ensure it is always fresh and innovative.
- POS is a must. There is no better way to track the sales, profitability and margins of products in your pharmacy.
- Focus on service and training. Frontshop products are ultracompetitive. “By offering superior service, trained staff and a full product line, we are able to compete with other competitors in our community.”
- Don’t hesitate to change. “Products that were huge successes for us in in the 1990s, such as books and music, are not purchased at pharmacies anymore. When we saw a decrease in these product lines, we didn’t hesitate to delist them from our store and look for a new niche to fill its place.”