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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : November 2006
A business opportunity just need to get into the habit of talking to your customers about the current condi- tions, how long they have had them and if they are interested in a preventive approach as well.’ Ms Braun said that when she worked in a pharmacy she discussed complementary and traditional medicines together with customers all the time. ‘It just made so much sense to the cus- tomers and it made sense to me; people felt they were getting a complete solution, not just a partial solution. ‘By talking to people about their health and their diet you create a more intimate rapport with them and customer loy- alty—people feel that you are interested and that you have something to offer them that is different to the guy around the corner. So it’s a win-win for everyone,’ she said. Get the facts Ms Bennett said that ensuring customers were taking the right dose was just as important as asking the customer if they were taking anything else. ‘You might find they are taking fish oil but if they have rheumatoid arthritis or eczema they might need to take six-a-day when the product might say three-a-day. ‘Glucosamine is another really good example where we have a celebrity pro- moting a product saying “true strength” —a true strength which is only 1,000 mil- ligrams a day, when the recommended dose is actually 1,500 milligrams a day. ‘So, you go about it by making sure what you are recommending is evidence- based and to do this you need good resources. ‘One book I think all pharmacists should have is Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence-based guide. It covers it all and shows some very positive interventions with drugs and complementary medi- cines,’ Ms Bennett said. Keeping up to date with trends, issues and evidence was also necessary. Ms Braun (co-author of the above book and who has just completed working on updating it) has added 20 more reviews to the original and is ‘astounded’ at the amount of evidence that has emerged over the past few years—a reflection of the interest in this area. Choose your mark Ms Bennett said it was important to make sure your advice resonated with the needs of the customer. ‘It depends on where on the wellness path that person is,’ she said. ‘For example, if they are older and have been chronically ill for some years, pre- ventative medicine probably isn’t as use- ful as it might be in someone who is young, just hitting that baby boomer mindset, who hasn’t really got any estab- lished diseases but is trying to ward them off.’ She said pharmacists could check the attitude and awareness and the knowl- edge of the customer by involving them in the treatment option. ‘Some people have very strong opinions on what they think is the right way to go. A lot of people say there is no evidence for these things so there is probably not much point batting them over the head if they are not into it ‘But the vast majority of people are [into it] so it does give us a really good opportunity to get in there and provide more options.’ Making sure all is well Ms Bennett said wellness interventions had to be very customer-focused. ‘You need to cover what issues that par- ticular customer has, what sort of disease states they have, what is their diet and their lifestyle about, how stressful they are, how much time have they got to exercise, what are their modifiable risk factors...all this has to come into play because all you are really hoping to do is prevent chronic illness and alleviate symptoms,’ she said. ‘The difficulty we have is that we are not going to sit down with customers for half an hour like a naturopath, collect all the data and run through all the vitamins and minerals that could theoretically help with a person’s physiology and assist opti- mal functioning. ‘We are not at that end of the spectrum. We are at that middle ground, co-existing with people who have already chosen to walk into a pharmacy that are wanting that straddled approach, wanting to bridge the gap rather than veering off towards having a naturopathic approach,’ she said. ¦ N O matter what level of interest nutrition plays in your business, the bottom line is that pharmacy cannot afford to ignore it. ‘Grocery is stealing the march on pharmacy,’ warned Bruce Annabel, Johnston Rorke partner in charge of pharmacy services. ‘The AC Neilson report for 2005 said that vitamin sales in grocery grew 27 per cent while, according to reports that I have seen for vitamins in pharmacy that year, they grew only 17 per cent. ‘The message is: if you treat these things as just product at a price, the other guys will knock you off.’ Mr Annabel said success in the nutrition sector was linked to helping customers find solutions to their health problems—and that involved having a wide range of products backed up by service and advice. He said generally in pharmacy there were six or seven categories that made a profit. One was the dispensary and five or six were front-of-shop lines. The other 34 lost money. ‘One of the profitable sections is vitamins and the average is about 4 per cent of total sales,’ Mr Annabel said. ‘Some of the stores, if they really push it, and do it very well, can get up to 17 per cent. ‘As a benchmark, if you are doing it just to achieve as a minimum...if you are doing it reasonably seriously and you are doing it well enough, you should be able to get up to 10 or 12 per cent. ‘The “stars”, who really push it and do it very well can get it up to 15 to 17 per cent. ‘The average pharmacy which just plonks the products there and just expects people to buy them, because “we are pharmacists and we are too busy doing the scripts and we don’t believe in complementaries” do 4 or 5 per cent. ‘Although, having said that, the section still makes money: It makes money on the space and it makes money on the stock. ‘It’s the fifth most profitable section in terms of return on space in the retail section and it’s also the fifth most profitable section in terms of the returns in retail that pharmacy gets on their investment in stock.’ Mr Annabel said the better-performing stores did well because they had: • plenty of space; • a large range of stock; and • lots of expertise which was supported by marketing and promotion. ‘If you organise your merchandise into solution categories, or you do that as well as a branded wall, you would arguably do it better because then the store is working harder for the owner.’ THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.87 NOVEMBER 2006 ? 49