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NZ Pharmacy - Retail Sales During Lockdown #2

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

Our analysis of the retail sales from pharmacies using RPM during April and May shows the dramatic rise and fall of customer spending through these essential businesses.

My analysis: “Focus on what’s essential”

The COVID-19 lockdown has amplified the recognition that the pharmacy sector’s success revolves around the “essential services” that it is “famous for.”

The old Pharmacy Guild catchphrase that Pharmacy is the health professional you see most often” was even more true during the lockdown. A number of GPs were discouraging face-to-face visits and referring patients to their pharmacy instead.

Because patients were less likely to see their doctor – they purchased a number of their regular medications over-the-counter from a pharmacy. This led to an increase in sales of products like Paracetamol, Diclofenac, Flixonase and Canesten.

In addition to providing solutions to customers’ needs when they are sick - the leading retail pharmacies have developed their expertise (and revenues) in the provision of preventative healthcare. This includes providing services such as vaccinations, health screening tests, mobility products, advice on supplements and nutrition, and lifestyle medicine consultations.

What this means for community pharmacies:

The local, owner-operated community pharmacy is an important part of the health system.

Their pharmacists, dispensary technicians and retail sales staff are trusted health professionals, providing face-to-face health advice and solutions to their local community.

Customers are increasingly seeing pharmacies as a highly accessible part of the primary health system. Pharmacy premises, branding, staffing and activities need to be realigned or fine-tuned to support this position.

What to do? My advice for pharmacy owners:

  1. Make a list of all the services your pharmacy offers now – then add to it the services you would like to offer in future. (Include every service you can think of e.g. deliveries, medication packaging, passport photos, ear piercing etc.) Prioritise each of these services by ranking them from #1 onwards, then write a brief action plan for the first ten: (Why, What, Who, When, Where, How).

  2. Make a list of the things your pharmacy does that are not essential, or not aligned with your business’s future success. Prioritise a plan for eliminating these. What you “don’t do” is an important step towards doing more of the right things.

  3. Compare the lists and plans from Steps 1 and 2 with the current state of your pharmacy. How do your customers see your pharmacy and how can you move your business more towards your vision of being “The Health Professional you see most often”?

What I’m seeing is an opportunity for the community pharmacy sector to re-confirm its relevance and importance. The pharmacies that embrace this opportunity will differentiate themselves from the corporate discount pharmacy chains.

To do this requires pharmacy owners to take a strategic view of their business, and to put in place a planned programme of investment into the development of a new, health-services-focused business model.

John Saywell

CEO, RPM Retail

I am working with a co-operative group of like-minded NZ pharmacy owners who are successfully improving their retail pharmacy performance through a data-driven approach to their retailing.

The Independent Pharmacy Group provides the benefits of a franchise whilst retaining the independence of the pharmacy owner-operator.

Read more at or contact me to discuss how this group can support you.


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