This week I read the news about Lloydspharmacy ceasing to trade in 190 locations across England with the same shock as everyone else. And that surprise is despite my intimate knowledge of how this company works and thinks.
Most Lloydspharmacy areas have pharmacies that overlap or compete with one another. My understanding is there are some pharmacies that don’t wash their own face financially, which even the benefits of vertical integration can’t drag away from the red.
In some locations, this has been caused by a lack of business, in others by the eye-watering rents or health centre ‘premiums’ they are committed to. I think this means the eventual list of affected Lloydspharmacy locations, when published, might not be the obvious places an outsider would guess.
It’s the number of affected pharmacies that surprises me. Is Lloydspharmacy really financially carrying 190 dud pharmacies – even with the cuts? Surely not? So could this simply be political posturing or clever PR? I noticed the news was picked up by lots of newspapers very quickly with scare headlines. I noticed that it was left to the usual pharmacy sector talking heads to comment. And now news is starting to trickle out within the sector, but not the media channels of Joe Public, that actually many will be sold on instead.
So despite my initial shock, I am already thinking something different is in play. A clever ploy to get customers of the quietest, most isolated pharmacies to rally in support of their pharmacy? Does this, in certain places, turn the ‘tolerated’ corporate in the village into a cuddly cause célèbre for its local politically active busybodies? Has the press coverage been timed to poke a stick at a government spinning a lot of wobbly plates?
It’s becoming clear to me that Lloydspharmacy staff at all levels, including area managers, are quite possibly pawns in a larger game of political and financial chess. I am certain the number of affected locations will end up much, much smaller. Within that, many of them will be sold on successfully, maintaining jobs and terms and conditions.
I reckon that in overstating the risks so cleverly, when the actual moves made are much smaller, a point has been proved externally and the remaining colleagues will experience a feeling of relief that translates into renewed energy and performance.
However, that’s no consolation for those who right now feel at risk of losing a job that I know most of them love.
The Area Manager has worked for all of the large multiples