Does your pharmacy have curb appeal?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - When it comes to looking after your bottom line, it pays to look after your front end, says the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

In November, the association launched "Front-End Overhaul...More Traffic, More Profits!", a program to help community pharmacy owners revamp their front-of-store merchandising to increase their curb appeal.

"Revenue streams are drying up," said Gabe Trahan, senior director of marketing and store operations for NCPA. "Pharmacists are so busy being pharmacists they don't have time to be retailers. They need some help with what can be done to the front end of their stores, and adding additional services for their customers."

That doesn't mean the community pharmacy has to be all things to all people, says Trahan, who advises pharmacy owners to start by identifying a category, like bath safety or mobility; creating compelling and informative signage; and having a depth of products in that category, including good, better and best choices.

One mistake many pharmacies make is to assume their local community can't afford high-end items, said Trahan.

"Do not underestimate what the family is willing to pay," he said. "An independent pharmacy needs to make sure they have (the best options). They owe it to their customers."

Because customers are unlikely to rush up and ask questions about, say, a transport chair, make sure signage provides useful information, like that it's lightweight and foldable, said Trahan.

"I was in a store recently that had a brand new transport chair and the biggest thing on the chair was the price: $179.99," he said. "I had no idea what the chair did. All I could do was stare at the price."

Customers also need to be able to try out products, said Trahan.

"I walked into a store that had a nice selection of lift chairs and on every chair it said, 'Please don't sit on this chair,'" he said. "Telling people not to touch or try is not a good way to market something."

Perhaps most important, and the weakest link for many pharmacies, says Trahan, is the need to get over the idea that they are selling equipment.

"The industry needs to embrace this," said Trahan. "They are offering comfort to customers living in bedrooms, they are offering safety in the bathrooms, they are offering options for increased mobility, and they are empowering the client to be more on their own."