WAYNE, N.J. -- Grand Union Co., based here, expects to add half a dozen new pharmacies in remodeled and new supermarkets this year.
The chain presently has 250 supermarkets and 58 pharmacies in New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
"We are doing a lot of remodeling and we are adding pharmacies to existing stores if they don't have pharmacies," said Douglas Policastro, who was appointed to the position of pharmacy operations manager of Grand Union in January.
Adding new pharmacies has its challenges, he pointed out. There are costs involved, and supermarkets need to meet state pharmacy board requirements. "They need to put in sinks and computers. There has to be refrigeration, weights and measures.
"Pharmacy accounts for 2.5% of Grand Union's total gross sales, which is significant," Policastro said. According to SN's annual ranking of the top 75 grocery chains, Grand Union generated an estimated total of $2.3 billion in sales last year. Policastro said supermarket pharmacies can compete against chain drug stores and independents because of the high number of frequent shoppers. "It is one-stop convenience shopping."
The most exciting thing to happen in pharmacy, Policastro said, is the computer network systems that enable pharmacists to track their customers' drug-drug interactions. Grand Union gets its software program from PDX in Dallas. "They load the software program into our computer.
"We are able to cross reference patient information such as allergies and we have the capability of heading off problems that may be caused by drug interactions when patients get several prescriptions."
Despite the improvements in technology that are helping pharmacists improve patient care, Policastro said, everybody is finding that margins are drastically being reduced by third parties.
"There's no question about it. When you sign contracts to participate in the plans, you have to abide by the rules. As long as you want to participate in the plans, you have to follow the guidelines and you are being squeezed."