Compared to the ups and downs in natural, organic and specialty food sales, the supermarket pharmacy seems like an oasis. According to the Food Marketing Institute, the number of prescriptions dispensed daily in 2007 reached 126; median weekly sales per store rose to $46,000; and prescription sales as a percentage of total-store revenue held steady at 9.4%.
Industry experts, and retailers themselves, note that it's easier to attain these types of numbers if the pharmacy is a foundation of the store's health and wellness umbrella, rather than an isolated entity that operates independently of other wellness-related departments and personnel.
“They need to plug the pharmacy into the guts of the operation,” said Bruce Kneeland, president of Pharmacy Connections, a consulting firm in Valley Forge, Pa.
The vast, aging Boomer population, coupled with the fact that people are living longer, means that the need for pharmacy and related medical support will only grow. Yet, only 33% of the retailers surveyed by FMI offered nutrition counseling, and even fewer (31%) made healthful recipes available. For operators looking to maintain a presence in wellness during the recession, having a pharmacy is a good locus from which to build out.
Shawn Nairn, director of operations for Hometown Pharmacy, Pittsburgh, is working toward taking on a larger role. He oversees leased space inside four Supervalu-franchised Shop 'n Save supermarkets. Currently, his own nurse practitioner rotates among the sites, offering a number of outreach services, including blood pressure screenings and diabetes education. The stores' customer bases are heavily blue collar, but Nairn suspects more health-focused products and services could be successfully integrated under a coordinated marketing effort.
“The franchisees let me use their stores as a forum to reach consumers,” he said, “but we're still not solidly working together.”