The multiple announced in February that it had put 70 of its branches up for sale to focus on a “slightly smaller pharmacy network”. It then withdrew 12 from the market in July, stating “they are more valuable” once brought “fully back into the business”.
Rowlands has had “a lot of interest”, including from “a lot of independents”, in the remaining 58 branches and is on track to sell all of them by the end of this financial year, Mr Bather told C+D in an exclusive interview last week (August 13).
However, “if for whatever reason” the branches do not sell by this point, “it’s really clear that we won’t close them”, he stressed.
“If we don’t get market value, and we don’t get a realistic valuation for the branch, we wouldn’t close the branch and [equally] we wouldn’t sell it and give it away.”
The multiple is currently running a programme to flag “challenging” branches and implement improvement plans, with support from senior leaders, Mr Bather explained. Any branches that are not sold will be brought “back into the estate” and included in this programme.
All affected staff will be included in Rowlands’ wider plans for the business until their branches are sold, he added.
“By the time we exit those stores later this year, I’ll be comfortable that we’ve looked after them,” he said.
“Reviewing the estate”
While he is confident these Rowlands branches will sell, Mr Bather could not rule out putting further pharmacies up for sale or closing others in future.
“We will constantly review the remaining estate. But if you’re up against it in some stores, if we can’t make them profitable, we can’t make them a success or serve the community properly, then we have to cut our losses on it,” Mr Bather said.
“You review your estate every year and sometimes you add to it, sometimes you take away,” he explained.