Retailing is all about being fast on your feet and unfortunately pharmacy has lost its retail skill set, except maybe in the field of discounting, which is not an attractive model for this point in retail pharmacy development.
General retailers are looking (and acting) on a concept called omnichannel retailing which is a trend for online retailers to move offline as well as the reverse.
For example, “Shoes of Prey” was purely online in the first instance.
Then it started hosting shoe-design parties at its Surry Hills office.
Then it opened a concession in David Jones’ flagship Elizabeth St store in Sydney, and leased some space , but allows customers to design their own shoes online and also look at physical swatches and samples within David Jones.
And now it is set to open its first stand-alone store in the Westfield mall in Bondi Junction.
The start-up is part of an accelerating trend for “omnichannel retail” to include online retailers moving offline as well as traditional stores moving online.
It is a surging global trend that includes pop-up shops, concessions within bigger stores, wholesale distribution, and stand-alone concept stores.
Local examples include Etsy, Amazon-owned Shopbop and Net-a-porter operating pop-ups in Sydney, Woolworths showcasing online wine business Langtons within liquor chain Dan Murphy’s, and online optician Clearly opening a flagship store in the Sydney CBD.
Clearly, this is a trend that pharmacies must adopt as a quick method for replacing lost revenues on the PBS until it can build in its own suite of professional services.
And it is not beyond the realms of imagination that an omnichannel system can be created between Woolworths and a local pharmacy by leasing space for a computer with a scanner connected that acts as a collection point for prescriptions.
Completed prescriptions are then delivered to the patient or picked up at the pharmacy by the patient and counselling can occur.
It is the latter component of information pertaining to patient prescriptions that is likely to keep this type of activity reasonably local.
Woolworths is currently reviewing its online strategy and could be open to such a proposal. If not, Coles would be the next port of call.
And for another idea, why not set up an online baby health clinic in partnership with a trained mothercraft nurse.
An example could look like the Johnson & Johnson site that is already established in Australia. Strangely, it involves the promotion of opposition manufacturer products so maybe there is a charge for product listing on their site.
But it has attracted large numbers of visitors to the US version of the site, also here in Australia – and the retails sales are strong.
This type of retail channel is less costly than a full range online site such as e-pharmacy, because of the restricted range of products.
Products that have an advice factor would make good choices for pharmacy, so a cough and cold online centre with a range of communications (phone, online chat, email etc) might just work- coupled with an efficient paid delivery service.
Clearly, there is a real opportunity for an entrepreneurial pharmacist to make good money with a good marketing concept.
One that I would like to see emerge is a clinical pharmacist leasing space in a pharmacy or other suitable environment, and providing a clinical service.
Income would be derived for the pharmacists through sale of consultations, while the pharmacy would become a centre of health excellence, deriving a second stream of income from product recommendations and associated sales through pharmacy assistants.
This would solve some very real problems that currently exist in pharmacy that might just disappear if sufficient trained clinical pharmacists were able to be recruited.
Or you might adopt the new Woolworths strategy of using one store as a bricks and mortar regional service centre involving a full-line online catalogue.
No physical customers are served within the bricks and mortar store.
Obviously, if a pharmacy were to adopt this process it would have to find a cheap location with suitably sized premises,
These newly-purposed Woolworths stores are known as “dark stores” or “shadow warehouses”, and they have to be set up within an epicentre of proven online marketing. The first Woolworths store was set up at Mascot, which is the heart of the largest online market in Australia
According to consulting firm AT Kearney, which has analysed dark stores operated by retailers such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Waitrose, dedicated online fulfilment stores can be almost three times more efficient than traditional supermarkets.
Retailers can fulfil online orders faster because dark stores are laid out for optimal picking and pickers or “personal shoppers” can whirl their trolleys around night and day, without having to navigate around slow-moving customers, promotions and checkout queues. Woolworths’ general manager of multi-channel retail, Kate Langford, says early results from the Mascot store are encouraging.
And herein lies an opportunity for an efficient wholesaler setting up an online business that emulates the old type depot model.
Except that it can be utilised for a dual purpose – supply of member pharmacies and secondly, for online fulfilment of each pharmacy’s customers allowing for a very cheap supply chain and no stock holding by the pharmacy.
This would serve a much better purpose than running very expensive market groups.
So put on your thinking caps and get outside the four walls and have a look at what other retailers are doing.
Then adapt the best ideas and integrate them within your new business model.