Lupin 2023

Drug stores should leave their past behind

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Imagine, if you can, a drug store without a pharmacy. Once upon a not-so-distant time, many chain drug stores opened without pharmacies, calling themselves health and beauty aid stores. It didn’t take long, however, before these operators recognized that the one feature that set a drug store apart from other convenience retailers was, yes, a pharmacy. Without a pharmacy a drug store could just be a convenience store, a variety store, a grocery store, a dollar store, even … well, almost any type of retail outlet.

The founders of chain drug retailing in America (and elsewhere) recognized the power of the pharmacy to draw traffic, business and ancillary volume early on. With this recognition came the halcyon days of chain drug retailing, the golden era that set the chain drug industry apart, attracting emulators and copycats eager to siphon off some of the shoppers who had proven the simple Rx sign to be a magical sign that brought in customers and dollars, transforming what otherwise would have been just another convenience store into the darling of mass retailing.

Now it appears that history is about to repeat. Quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, chain drug retailers (and other mass merchants) are reducing the number of hours that the pharmacy within a chain drug store is open to the public. Why? The usual reasons: a shortage of pharmacists, unreasonable demands on the pharmacist’s time and talents, the short-sighted notion that pharmacists and the many indispensable functions they perform are, after all, dispensable.

The ultimate outcome of this hasty decision is almost too dire to contemplate. Even now, the mass retailing community is encroaching on what was once a chain drug store near monopoly. Supermarkets and discount store retailers already easily compete with chain drug stores in the all-important health care arena. For their part, consumers, once loyal to the local chain drug store and the pharmacist they’ve long done business with, no longer care which pharmacist fills their prescriptions or which retail store they do business with.

True, the business of pharmacy has changed, radically in many ways. Dispensing advice and medication are longer pharmacists’ only job — or even their most important task. That, at least, is quickly coming to be the consensus at senior management levels. And senior management is quickly acting on that premise.

Moreover, it’s a sound premise — except for one element: It fails completely to consider the customer. That’s a serious misjudgment. And, if not quickly corrected, it will inevitably change chain drug retailing forever — and not for the better.


Comments are closed.