How to beat supermarket pharmacies: Guido Sartoretto Verna’s retail pharmacy philosophy

How to Beat Supermarket Pharmacies
Guido Sartoretto Verna’s retail pharmacy philosophy

The world is changing at an ever faster pace and there is no reason why pharmacies should not change as well

It is not my purpose to explain these global economic process and analyse the underlying causes, but speak out as a consumer and simple citizen that observes change as it happens and keeps well informed.

My neighbourhood is changing, my street and the shops all around. New supermarkets and chain stores are taking over in the high street and all the smaller independent and family-run shops are disappearing. All except the 2 shop windows and 50 sq. m. retail area that is my local pharmacy. Even though it has changed over the years, reducing the size of the stock room to make space for more products, it still has that old-school feel about it, especially in the way they handle customers. The prescription area and counter are almost completely filled with display stands, making it feel a little like some Middle Eastern bazaar. All that space which should be dedicated to offering customers services has been literally swallowed up. It is badly lit and the colours are faded, making you feel slightly uneasy when you enter and very relieved when you leave, usually 30 seconds after having picked up your purchase from the sales counter. It is only a matter of time before this shop falls victim to the next chain pharmacy or supermarket with a chemist which moves in next door.

Its a great shame because small independent shops like this one have a great opportunity to grow and guarantee their future – all they have to do is change. We are going through a very interesting economic phase in which new alternatives are being put forward to combat what seemed like the unstoppable growth of supermarket and chain pharmacies only a few years ago. For example, slow food has now become a popular and winning alternative to fast food, and slow marketing is in vogue. Rather then get the customer through the shop as fast as possible and make them buy, retail experts recommend trying to keep customers in your shop for as long as possible, entertaining them and helping them to relax or even have fun. The pharmacy in my neighbourhood has done nothing to get up to speed and offer customers an“experience”. Rather is has stuck to ancient retail tactics that are now obsolete, such as long and boring wall shelving where all the products are lined up on the shelf like in a supermarket.

We have a different vision of the pharmacy according to which each pharmacy should be unique, instantly recognisable and transmit the image of the pharmacist as a professional. The choice of interior decor can also be leveraged to communicate the pharmacist’s professionalism and create an ambience that is very different from chain and supermarket drugs stores and pharmacies.

If used properly, interior design is an economic tool which will make your business plan a success and help increase sales. Innovative pharmacy store design is a cultural phenomenon which aims to stimulate emotions, entertain and offer personalised solutions to customers’ individual problems. It is able to win in business terms as it treats the consumer as an individual, not as a number, responding to changing social trends, tastes and habits. Above all, effective pharmacy interior design in fully contextualised within the history and culture of the pharmacy’s location, transmitting a series of visual messages that give real substance to the pharmacy and justify its existence.

For a pharmacist to be a true pharmacist, he or she has to be able to integrate and coordinate the various displays and sectors in order to give form to their role as a health professional, ready to advise and specialised every area of health care and well-being.  Only in this way can the pharmacist remain the consumer’s most important ally in all things concerning health care. As Gail Sheehy once siad “If we don’t change, we won’t grow, is we don’t grow, we are not really living”.

Guido Sartoretto Verna