Lloydspharmacy's parent company Celesio is launching a virtual pharmacy chain to rival Alliance Boots' Alphega network.
Celesio announced yesterday (December 6) it would be following in the footsteps of its competitor by partnering with independent pharmacies to create a "pan-European competitive network".
Joining Celesio's European pharmacy network would give independents access to Lloydspharmacy's "best and most innovative" initiatives, the company said, either as part of a package or individual business modules.
"What we are now trying to do is provide the leadership to pharmacies as a whole" Mark James, Celesio
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And independents would also benefit from the economic advantages of being part of a larger network, Celesio said, through marketing, promotion and bulk purchasing products."Membership guarantees that the independent owner-managed pharmacies will enjoy competitive advantages over drugstores and supermarkets in terms of service, consulting and performance," said Stephan Borchert, member of Celesio's management board.
"This does nothing to change the independence of the pharmacies. Quite the contrary: the network provides the prospect of guaranteeing the independence of owner-managed pharmacies", he said.
Celesio would not reveal how much money it was investing in its network and no detail was provided on how much it would cost for independents to join.
The network's launch comes five years after Alliance Boots launched Alphega, which now has 4,500 independent pharmacy members across Europe.
It was part of a wider announcement on Celesio's plans for its pharmacies in the UK and across Europe, including refits and new services plus the rollout of the Lloyds brand across the continent.
The company is trialling a new look at two of its UK stores with a focus on skincare and pain management, that if successful, would be rolled out across its 2,200 pharmacies in Europe by 2014.
The stores at Bicester, Oxfordshire and in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire re-opened this week fitted with a central health bar for customers to check product information, touchscreen computers with a program to assess patients' pain and digital scanners to check skin conditions. There were also store cards on offer to allow customers to book appointments online with a pharmacist.
"We have provided the foundation and set the right environment," Celesio UK managing director Mark James said. "It feels right, it looks like the right type of place to do these things but, more importantly, what we are now trying to do is provide the leadership to pharmacies as a whole, which is why I think this programme is so exciting."
"It's not just about us doing well at the expense of others it's about the fact that pharmacy has to provide as a whole".
Celesio also announced that the Lloyds brand name would be used across all of its pharmacies in Europe, with all the stores carrying it combined with the word pharmacy in the language of the country, as in the UK.
Would you consider joining Celesio's independent network?