The COVID pandemic has brought many changes to the local pharmacy. It has reignited the importance of the community pharmacy, as the hub for care, advice, and health services.
The Australian pharmacy vaccine rollout has begun and continues. Three million Moderna vaccines alone will be delivered to 3500 pharmacies across Australia, each month in October, November and December 2021.
That’s a lot of people coming through the doors of each pharmacy, even those who wouldn’t ordinarily shop at their local pharmacy.
Pre-COVID, a 2018 survey of more than 1000 Australians was conducted by the PSA, found patients deeply value the accessibility of pharmacists. In fact, they found them more accessible than other health professionals who offer appointment-based services. The pandemic will continue to bolster pharmacies accessibility and consumer confidence in their local pharmacy.
Vaccinations aside, the pandemic is seeing pharmacies play a bigger role in their community. Local pharmacies are not only the most accessible health destination in Australia –
- They are a place for consumers to go for face-to-face medical advice without the need for a telehealth appointment.
- In some areas, pharmacies have been the only retail space open besides supermarkets, liquor outlets, and hardware.
- The pharmacy can satisfy peoples need to engage with others, feel connected and part of a community.
Why are consumers turning to their local pharmacy?
- A safer retail option for consumers. The smaller retail footprint has meant pharmacies can better manage the number of shoppers and social distancing. Consumers feel more comfortable shopping in this environment than in a larger, more crowded supermarket. With wait times for Click and Collect blowing out to over a week in some busy supermarkets, consumers are turning to their local pharmacy. They provide the opportunity for the last minute or ‘just ran out’ stock ups that people need to make, or the impulse purchase in health care needs.
- Shoppers craving retail therapy. With the absence of open retail outlets, the pharmacy is now seen in a whole new light. It has become the gift shop, the shoe shop for thongs and orthopaedic footwear, the beautician for facial skincare and home beauty work, the naturopath or health shop for aromatherapy and home ambience products.
- Connection with the local community. The pandemic has pushed people to disconnect from their local communities – their sporting clubs, their book clubs, gyms, local pubs, and restaurants. People crave social interaction and one of the few places left where they can get that face-to-face connection is in the pharmacy. They also provide a valuable community service as social interaction for the elderly, lonely, and vulnerable
How can pharmacies take advantage of the boost in foot traffic?
- Window and shop displays. Passers-by are no longer dashing down the street. They are walking down streets they may never had strolled down before. Lockdowns encourage people to explore their local neighbourhood and see it in a whole new light. Take advantage of eye-catching window displays, especially if people are not allowed in the pharmacy, filled with products they can purchase in-store. For pharmacies providing vaccines, display impulse, feel good products where people who are waiting the 15 minutes after their vaccines can browse before leaving. Gondola ends with “staff favourite” products and a recommendation work well to a captive audience.
- ‘Pharmacy only’ products. It is a perfect time for pharmacies to expand or shift their retail offering to focus on ‘pharmacy only’ ranges that will keep customers coming back long after the threat of the pandemic has eased. Some brands that Alita Sales distributes are pharmacy only products, across a wide range of health and beauty for various consumer’s needs. We distribute the natural beauty care brand Natio, Para’kito, a range of mosquito repellents and protective products, anti-fog Bright Wipes for glasses, and orthotic footwear by Footlogics. Alternatively try fun, skincare products that offer great value for money such as the 10.0.6 skincare range featuring their funky range of deep cleaning and nourishing face masks. Don’t forget to highlight them, make them the hero within your store. This is the time to get new customers hooked on pharmacy only products, so they have to come back to the pharmacy to buy, time and time again.
- Develop a relationship with your locals. With the squeeze on margins, pharmacy was moving away from service towards a more “cash and wrap” model. The pandemic has people feeling ‘disconnected’ with a heightened requirement for social interaction. So, use this opportunity to re-engage and get to know your locals. The pharmacy now has less customers in store at any one time, and customers having to wait out their 15 minutes after their vaccine. Making small talk (we know you are busy!) may seem trivial but at this time, it is a vital social element that people are craving. To be seen and noticed, may just be the feel-good factor that creates a customer for life. As the famous TV show, Cheers said ‘Everybody wants to go where everyone knows your name.’
- For brands looking for a new audience in pharmacy. With store traffic increased in the millions due to vaccinations, and consumers seeing pharmacies as the safer shopping experience, there has never been a better time to get into pharmacy. Utilising pharmacy centric POS stands and eye-popping products, a clever pharmacy instore strategy backed with a sales team could see your brand sales soaring into new heights. The pandemic has been tough on everyone. By embracing a few of these ideas, community pharmacy may come out of this stronger than before with a renewed customer base of locals.
If you are a pharmacy looking for more ‘pharmacy only’ products to stock your shelves for your new locals or a health and beauty brand looking for a new market, talk to the team on 1300 769 355 at Alita Sales – our 25 years’ experience in pharmacy could make all the difference.