While it will be “for the new CEO to determine whether there's a change in strategy”, outgoing chief executive John Nuttall said Well Pharmacy “broadly wants to keep the pharmacies we have”.
Mr Nuttall is set to retire this autumn after 17 years leading the business – under both its Co-operative Pharmacy and Well guises – and will be replaced by Seb Hobbs, former president and chief customer officer of the world’s largest diamond retailer, Signet Jewellers.
Despite government funding cuts “squeezing” the sector, Well will only consider closing “one or two” pharmacies in certain circumstances, such as if a GP surgery closes and renders a nearby branch unprofitable, he told C+D in an exclusive interview last week (August 20).
Mr Nuttall stressed to C+D that he does not see these as “large-scale” closures, as those 200 Boots branches represent just 8% of the multiple's network.
Mr Nuttall said Well is in a good position to pick up the extra workload should more pharmacies close across the sector, because of its 2017 decision to roll out hub-and-spoke dispensing across its 780 branches.
“We want to see how things shake out with the sector and if we start to see other pharmacies closing...the hub-and-spoke project will give us a bit of an advantage,” he said.
Without the use of hub-and-spoke dispensing, Mr Nuttall said he “struggles to see how the sector is going to accommodate” the new services proposed in the five-year funding contract for England unveiled last month.
While the multiple's decision to roll out a hub-and-spoke model was a “big” and “risky” investment at the time, “I think we made the right decision”, Mr Nuttall said.