*This story has been updated to reflect that today's announcement has superseded information in Rowlands' 2018 investor brochure*
Rowlands announced this morning that it has put 70 of its pharmacies up for sale – 69 in England and one in Wales.
Rowlands is the UK’s fourth-largest multiple, with more than 500 branches and 4,800 employees, meaning the pharmacies up for sale represent more than 10% of its network.
Commenting on Rowlands' announcement this morning (February 21), managing director Kenny Black said: “We are committed to investing in the future and changing our dispensing processes in order to deliver sustainable, profitable growth for the business, enable colleagues to spend more time with patients and reinforce the role of Rowlands pharmacies as local healthcare hubs.
“As a result, we need to focus our investment on a slightly smaller Rowlands pharmacy network than we have today,” he added.
“We are confident the branches we are divesting have the potential for future growth to meet emerging healthcare needs and will create an exciting opportunity for first-time buyers and existing independent contractors to develop and expand the range of services offered on a more localised basis.
“Our branch colleagues will be fully informed and supported throughout this process.”
The sale is being overseen by brokers Christie & Co, which said the pharmacies “represent an ideal opportunity for a wide range of buyers to acquire corporately owned pharmacies that are rarely made available, particularly for pharmacies of high quality which require minimal investment”.
Background to the sale
C+D has seen a document, dated October 2018 and titled ‘Project Alpha’, that states 54 pharmacies were initially up for sale. Rowlands has since clarified that these pharmacies do not entirely correspond to the current list of 70 being brokered by Christie & Co.
The news of the potential sales is not a complete surprise. In May 2018, Mr Black warned that the multiple was considering “reducing its branch network” because of the “draconian” cuts to funding in England – although the chain insisted it did not have a target number of branches it planned to close or merge.
The chain also moved the “labour-intensive” preparation of medicine trays from branches to a central location, and reassessed staff levels in its branches. Rowlands employees have told C+D that accuracy checking technicians have been “reprofiled”.