Is your pharmacy front end ready for 2019?

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Customers are changing — is your store keeping up?

In brief:
  • Review your front end at least twice a year.
  • Keep an eye on customer trends and new products.
  • Make hot products easy to spot.
  • Train your staff on what’s new in your store’s front end.
  • Become a destination for more than pills.

Keep the front end fresh

If the front end of your pharmacy hasn’t changed in the past six months, you’re overdue for a makeover. Give customers a reason to shop your store and put more in their baskets every trip.

At least twice each year, pharmacy owners should look at right-sizing departments, advises Dave Wendland, Vice President of Strategic Relations and Co-Owner of Hamacher Resource Group Inc.

Owners should look at:

  • Sales figures to eliminate products just sitting on shelves.
  • Community demographics, to spot population shifts. Review customers’ lifestyles and values, and how your pharmacy fits in.
  • Cultural trends and products coming to market.
  • Opportunities to sell more than products. Offer patient support through programs such as weight management, consultations and point-of-care testing.

Focus on four key categories

Generally half of all sales in health, beauty and wellness come from four front-end categories:

  • Cough, colds and allergy
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Pain relief
  • Digestive health

To maximize sales, check that you’re offering quality private-label supplements for:

  • Joint health
  • Heart health
  • Digestive health
  • Brain health

Naturals are more than a niche

“Make no mistake, natural is for everyone,” Wendland said. Even caregivers who usually turn to conventional treatments may occasionally seek natural alternatives today. In considering this opportunity Wendland suggests:

  • Educate yourself about items customers may be searching for, such as CBD (cannabidiol) products, and know what your state law is.
  • Don’t make assumptions about customers. Young shoppers aren’t the only ones seeking natural alternatives. Older individuals may be tired of putting medication in their bodies. Their younger caregivers may be asking, “Why are you taking 15 prescriptions a day?” They may be looking for alternatives.

Wendland relayed tips for driving sales of natural products in your front end.

As a result of these efforts, customers who previously drove past your pharmacy to buy natural products in specialty stores may find it convenient to shop at your store instead.

In addition to naturals, go local

While some chains are offering natural products, independents can differentiate and draw customers with locally sourced products. Wendland cited the following examples:

  • An aromatherapy display in a Wisconsin pharmacy featured beer-infused candles produced locally.
  • Another pharmacy featured a display of local honey with a sign detailing why the pharmacist thinks honey is great. “It was a honey of a product,” Wendland said. “And it flew off the shelf.”

Wendland has seen great collaborations between pharmacy owners and various types of local businesses. A creative example is a pharmacy that offered samples of products from a local bakery. The bakery in turn told its customers that the pharmacy was stocking sugar- and gluten-free products.

Show staff what’s new

Walk the pharmacy with staff members monthly to educate them on new offerings. “This is important because new products drive front-end sales,” Wendland noted. Up to 40% of sales in a category are from products that weren’t on the market one year ago.

Designate one staff member to watch trade publications for new products and pay attention to what shoppers ask for.

Learn from others

“Be a student of retail,” Wendland advised. Walk into other types of stores and think about how you can adapt successful merchandising approaches. What are they selling at their counter that you could offer and customers could buy from you?

Ask 10 customers what they would like to see on an end cap. If five of them give you a similar answer, that’s a strong indicator of demand for a product.

Importantly, create a front end that is a destination, not an afterthought. “Give customers a reason to come in for something other than a prescription,” Wendland said.