When Boots announced it is planning to close around 200 branches, I was initially surprised that even the UK’s largest multiple couldn’t hack the cuts. Any big business will start mergers and closures to retain its margins, but as its parent company owns its own wholesaler, I felt it would be almost immune. I suppose it thought the same, as I don’t remember hearing concerns from Boots when the cuts were staring the rest of us in the face.
I hate to say it, but I was a little happy to hear that 8% of its stores were going. I can’t imagine any community being severely affected by a branch closure. If a branch closes near an independent, the patients who move across will soon realise what a difference it makes to be served by a smaller group.
The announcement did, however, worry everyone. If a company as big as Boots is consolidating, there is a huge risk to the rest of us. Boots can easily move everything to a dispensing hub, as it has the capital to do so. Unfortunately, small independents are unable to make such moves, and we are stuck with what we have.
Despite all this, I’m thinking that as Boots carries on with its huge developments, it will lose the patients who desperately need a good service. These patients will begin to migrate to smaller pharmacies.
The current elderly generation doesn’t care about apps or “express pick-up lanes”; they want conversations and familiar faces. This is where independents excel. My patients were distraught that they had to suddenly phone Prescription Ordering Direct to order their medicines. Mention “online ordering” and the blood drains from their kind faces.
Every independent near a closing branch of Boots should grab the bull by the horns and provide the excellent service the multiple’s ex-customers deserve.
The Contractor is an independent pharmacy owner in England