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Should you focus on OTC sales to cope with pharmacy cuts?

Are you positioning well-known OTC products at customers' eye level?
Are you positioning well-known OTC products at customers' eye level?

Experts share their tips for maximising income from over-the-counter sales

In the face of the government’s cuts to pharmacy funding in England, it is essential for contractors to make the most of every available revenue stream to keep their businesses viable – and profitable.

Speaking at Numark’s conference in Cape Town earlier this month (March 4-11), representatives from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Phoenix UK and Numark itself explained how pharmacists can capitalise on opportunities in the over-the-counter (OTC) and retail markets.

Educate the customer

A lack of knowledge can inhibit a customer’s spend on a certain product range, GSK pharmacy and drug controller David Healey told delegates.

“Educate your customer and not just the staff,” Mr Healey said. “Encourage them to seek advice.”

He pointed out that most customers – 62% – only take medicines as a last resort when they are ill. “Impulse [retail] opportunities are key to driving growth,” said Mr Healey, who highlighted allergy and skincare as categories to focus on.

He also urged pharmacy owners to build up their product visibility. Only 18% of shoppers step into the OTC aisle, he stressed.

Get your core product range right

Mike Johnson, head of OTC for wholesaler Phoenix UK, emphasised the importance of making sure you know which of your products are the most successful – and which are set to grow in popularity.

He told delegates to increase shelf space for growing categories, including bladder weakness and topical analgesics such as Voltarol. “Rowlands have got behind the market and it's going really well.”

It is also “essential” to get your core OTC product range right, added Mr Johnson, who encouraged pharmacists in the audience to make sure they know their sales figures.

Meanwhile Numark communications manager Emma Charlesworth pointed out that shelf space allocated to each category should be calculated based on their sales performance.

“This will help you drive profitability with the categories that count,” she said.

Spend money on your store

Mr Johnson encouraged delegates to make in-store investments to increase their retail profitability further.

He suggested creating a monthly promotional calendar with a focus on certain products, and using a TV system to drive sales by raising customers’ brand awareness.

Fitting out a pharmacy with a bespoke consultation facility is another good way of encouraging customers to seek advice, he said.

Don’t neglect good branding

“Your pharmacy environment should be a reflection of your brand,” Numark's Ms Charlesworth told delegates. “You have to consider what your brand says about you.”

She stressed the importance of establishing a strong identify via a good window display and fascia.

She also reminded the conference that customers have an expectation of strong merchandising, as practised by the large multiples. “Achieving core merchandising principles will increases sales,” she said.

Ms Charlesworth encouraged delegates to take ‘beacon branding’ back home after the conference and put it into practice. This should involve putting well-known brands such as Nurofen at eye level to catch a customer’s attention when they walk into the pharmacy .

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

This sentiment was echoed by Numark's director of marketing Mandeep Mudhar, who had a simple piece of advice to pharmacy owners: “Walk the floor.”

He encouraged delegates to address every element of their pharmacy "on a regular basis", from signage and range to space allocation, traffic flow and point-of-sale materials.

“Start from the outside of the shop and put yourself in the customer’s shoes," he added. "First impressions always count.”

What is your best tip for increasing OTC sales?

Prafulkumar Soneji, Locum pharmacist

Pharmacy funding cut backs and conferences in far away exotic places do not bode well!!!

Roger Kramer, Senior Management


1. Clawbacks/remuneration reductions the more successful you are in the strategy being propounded so that pharmacists effectively end up subsidising NHS! It will then be sandwiches as well as pill pops to earn a proper living. Ask DoH.

2, Manufacturers using independent and small pharnmacies as guinea pigs or marketing launch pads followed by transfer of successful products to the multiples at more profitablemargins. ask newsagents what happens. ask the gone newsagents - forced out and not market forced determination!

3. Governments claiming to promote free market economy is no longer free economy in practice but a highly regulated and managed in favour of and favouring big businesses only. Ask the consultants!

In my view another market segment of community and free economy based entrepreneurs biting the dust

........unless Brexit somehow saves???!!!

April Fool???!!!

Jeff Jenkins, Design

Really ... ? maybe they will start to think of you as a service provider for their family healthcare and take an interest in all that you can do for them thru prescriptions and day to day medicines . Surely not just an extention of the GP

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

This will just reinforce the daft idea that we are just shopkeepers

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