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Rowlands halts sale of extra 12 branches due to ‘tough’ market

Rowlands has completed the sale of 24 of its branches
Rowlands has completed the sale of 24 of its branches

Rowlands will not proceed with the sale of an additional 12 branches that it had originally put up for sale in February 2019.

The multiple announced in February last year that it was planning to sell 70 branches to focus on a “slightly smaller pharmacy network”. However, it told C+D in July last year that it had decided to withdraw 12 of those 70 pharmacies, while it was still planning to sell the remaining 58 branches.

Rowlands confirmed to C+D last week (December 2) that it has decided to retain an additional 12 branches within its estate, meaning that it has halted the sale of 24 branches in total since last year.

A spokesperson told C+D that the multiple “always said that unless we get sensible offers to reflect branch values, we wouldn’t sell”.

Rowlands managing director Mark Bather told C+D: “Without doubt, funding austerity in England means that the market is tough, but our approach has always been to work in partnership with independent pharmacies to create a sustainable network for local communities.”

Progressing with other sales

The spokesperson told C+D that the multiple has completed the sale of 24 branches, while “negotiations are ongoing regarding others”.

In August last year, Mr Bather told C+D that the company would not close the branches it had up for sale if it was not able to find a buyer.

In October, the multiple resumed plans to reduce opening hours for around 75% of branches in England as it said it was a cost it could “no longer sustain”.

Rowlands told C+D last month (November 23) that it is in discussions with its landlords – including NHS Property Services – to negotiate rent reductions, as it believes that “local crippling rentals” and the pharmacy funding austerity in England are pushing many pharmacies “to the point of closure”.

What do you make of this announcement?

R A, Community pharmacist

I think the chicken has come home to roost and most buyers have finally cottoned on to the fact that pharmacy is not as profitable as it once was. Therefore goodluck to Rowlands because I doubt they will be able to command previous premiums. 

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

Probably decided to defer sales, to take advantage of financial support by way of grants and rates relief for this year, due to "Covid". if they were desparate to sell them, they could have auctioned them at realistic prices, rather than waiting for 18 months looking for the highest bidder! 

Jack Daniels, Community pharmacist

As an ex-manager I sometimes wish they'd kept my branch instead of selling it! I wonder where these sensibly priced much sought after branches were located?

C A, Community pharmacist

I would assume that Rowlands was coming up with the "sensible" prices and not getting offers to their liking due to the worlds situation at present. Or possibly because people have started realising that pharmacy isn't the profitable business that it once was, and they don't want to pay massive good will costs.

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