Pharmacies with positive energy, the Sartoretto Verna philosophy – “Farmacia news” 3/2007

Pharmacies with Positive Energy
published in “Farmacia News” n°3/2007 by M.E. Calabrese

Functional and perfectly balanced, the pharmacy interiors designed by Sartoretto Verna welcome customers into an environment charged with positive energy that complements and strengthens the pharmacist’s professional image.

Successful communication is not only about putting words together. If you are try to communicate to today’s consumers who are searching for new answers and solutions to health issues, then words alone are not enough.

A new-look pharmacy is needed that caters to consumers’ demand for high quality services rather than a large quantity of products. Imagination and rationality, pragmatism and innovation “speak” to customers, charging clients with positive energy and satisfying all their needs for good health whose natural habitat is the pharmacy.

Guido Sartoretto Verna has led the way in pharmacy design and systems since 1965, pioneering a design methodology according to which each pharmacy’s identity and history is left intact and a range of bespoke flexible fittings are tailor made.

Sartoretto Verna has been working exclusively in the field of pharmacy store design since 1965 and is composed of 2 joint companies. One is based in Rome and deals with research and development into pharmacy design and fittings. It has developed the Ral System furniture series from the drawing board to patenting, a process which lasts about a year for each new series. The Rome office also deals with logistics and all administration. The other company is based in Turin and deals exclusively with pharmacy design and sales. Both have showrooms showcasing the latest products and design studios. Production is outsourced to around a dozen partner companies. Sartoretto Verna’s permanent staff is around 15 people, two thirds of which are graduates. Since 2000 growth has been in double figures; closing the financial year in 2006 with an increase of around 30%. Sartoretto Verna operates in all of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the Far East too.

Pharmacies are akin to community health centres that have earned people’s trust. In your experience, how can you renew the image of a place that inspires trust and stimulate consumer demand at the same time?
Before answering your questions, I think one thing should be said first in way of introduction. Every pharmacy has its own history which is linked to the places and persons that have followed each pharmacy along its journey. It roots within the local community are often very deep since each pharmacy has contributed significantly to its neighbourhood’s growth over the generations. Unfortunately, however, pharmacies and pharmacist’s do not have the same standing as they used to do. Market forces have led to the product prevailing over the professional advice of the pharmacist, whose very raison d’être is now being questioned. It’s all of problem of substance rather than style, as the pharmacist should decide whether he or she wants to go back to being the leading figure in his or her shop and community. Do pharmacists today believe in the pharmacy’s mission? Do they love their job? Sartoretto Verna is very sensitive to people’s motivations and likes sharing a common goal.

Yes, but I think its important to point out that common goals must keep pace with changing customer trends which have an impact upon pharmacy interior design. Is it possible to have some continuity and harmony between the old and the new style as pharmacies evolve?
The revolution in IT has transformed society as everybody can get the information they need straight away. Consumers are much better informed as a result but they are also much more confused. Pharmacists can step into this gap and offer some clarity as long as they have kept themselves up to date. However, I don’t think pharmacies should return to how they used to be, even though antique furniture can be used effectively when combined with our  aluminium and glass RAL2 furniture.

What should strike customers when they first step into a pharmacy?
Harmony! We think this is the objective of every good design and obtaining it is not easy given all of the diverse elements that come into play. These include the pharmacy’s urban setting, the pharmacist and his team, the pharmacy building and the hoard of different consultants from the accountant to the window dresser. The common goal is to increase profits, credibility and professional standing among the local community, and everyone of the people involved have to play their part and work together. The company chosen to undertake the renovation or refit is a key player as it is up to them to understand, coordinate and leverage all of these diverse elements in order to achieve the common goal and make the pharmacy successful and profitable.

Do you think that by changing a pharmacy’s image you can liberate the pharmacist from old clichés and increase his reputation as a qualified professional?
Certainly, I think that it’s imperative to create a new image for the pharmacy as they have been left behind and not kept up with the changing face of retail. Nowadays, restaurants sell cook books, bookshops sell CDs and DVDs and fashion boutiques put on food and wine tasting. By combining related products and experiences, modern retail attempts to make customers’ buying experience as pleasurable (and profitable)

From the research that you have conducted into pharmacy interior design, which solutions have the most strategic importance?
Sartoretto Verna has always placed great emphasis on the importance of R&D. We were the first to introduce floor-to-ceiling display units (RAL 1) in the 1980’s; back-lit modular shelving in aluminium and glass  (RAL 2) and antique treated furniture (RAL Classic) in the 1990’s; self-supporting shelves (RAL 3) and light diffusing materials (RAL 4) in 2000. We currently sell over 4000 products and have a wide range of variables and optional extras (Corian, aluminium, copper, metacyrlic, synthetic leather, inox brushed aluminium) which leverage production techniques and know how that are very different to traditional carpentry. We offer tailor-made fittings are incredibly flexible, allowing a wide range of functional and aesthetic combinations. This helps to diversify the pharmacy’s various sectors and make each type of product more recognisable. The modular technology also permits you to change displays and integrate new ones at will.

Faced by the challenge of supermarket and chain pharmacies, how can pharmacies leverage interior design to stand out?
First of all, pharmacies need to be spacious to succeed. Before refurbishing and fitting takes place, you should buy up space, as much as possible, even if its a basement or upper floor is doesn’t matter. Thanks to robotic storage systems and modern building techniques, at least 75% of the space can made public. Having set aside at least 150 sq. m. for the retail area, you can use the rest of the space for offering new services such as vaccinations, first aid and many others.

What are the characteristics of the pharmacy of the future? Form, light or colour?
I’m sure you have already understood that our approach to interior design is complex and varied. We are not interested in simply replacing old fittings with new ones or repainting the walls a different colour because the interior would still have the same defects and be under the same limits. Sartoretto Verna is all about solving our clients’ problems at the root, changing a building’s structure if necessary in order to optimize the space and significantly increase the business’s profit margins. This can only be achieved through developing our relationship with the client and having a sufficiently large space at our disposal. With all of these key factors in place, the pharmacy can offer more personalised services and be more interactive, involving customers in a open-ended dialogue and putting them and their needs at the centre the pharmacy rather than the product. Light, colour and materials are all key players, of course, but they will be discreetly used as pharmacies are unique in the retail world and should avoid being too gregarious. What do I mean by discreet? Create charm and ambience through lighting and detailing without allowing the pharmacy’s commercial purpose to distract from the role of the pharmacist as a professional health expert.