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Why I bought a LloydsPharmacy

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Why I bought a LloydsPharmacy

Pharmacy owner James Semple

With Lloydspharmacy branches for sale across the home nations, we ask three new owners about their purchases. By Saša Janković

Lloydspharmacy began selling off branches across Great Britain at the start of 2023, closing all 237 of its pharmacies inside Sainsbury’s supermarkets in June and disposing of dozens more standalone stores since then. According to the multiple, most buyers have been “independent pharmacy owners and local businesspeople who have demonstrated their commitment to our branch teams and patients”. We talk to three of these new owners about what they plan to do next…

Pharmacists and brothers James and Brendan Semple bought a Lloydspharmacy branch in Gourock, Renfrewshire, earlier this year. The pharmacy, now rebranded as TLC Pierhead Pharmacy, is the eighth in the Semple brother’s TLC Pharmacy group across central Scotland

“There were three main reasons why we were attracted to this purchase,” explains James. “The first was commercial: our existing branch in Gourock and our branch at Inverkip were direct competitors to the Lloydspharmacy in Gourock. It made sense to protect our existing businesses by buying it from Lloyds.

“The second was logistics. The Lloydspharmacy is 100 yards from our head office and a five minute walk from my home. With another two branches close by, it’s easy to keep an eye on the business, and to share staff, delivery routes and stock.

“The third was sentimental. My first permanent job as a pharmacist was managing this very pharmacy back in 1992, when AAH purchased it from a local independent. It was this job that brought me to Gourock from Glasgow, and I’ve lived here ever since. Not only that, but Brendan’s first day as a qualified pharmacist was covering my Saturday off as a locum. So we really couldn’t not buy it when it came up for sale!”

James says the handover process was “relatively painless”, adding: “We had a good relationship with Lloyds during the purchase and everything went smoothly.” As for what’s next, he says: “We inherited a great team in the pharmacy, but obviously it takes time to change working practices. I have taken a very hands-on approach with this branch and the feedback I’m getting from patients and customers is very, very encouraging.”

The Right Medicine Pharmacy Group – owned by Noel Wicks, Mike Embrey and Jonathan Burton – took over six ex-Lloydspharmacy branches in July to add to their existing chain of 41 award-winning independents located across central Scotland.

“We decided to buy these because they fitted very well with our existing portfolio”, says Jonathan. “They are in places in close proximity to our existing sites, creating synergies that will work well for our business and our patients.

“We have a really well established and well road-tested process for onboarding new pharmacies, whether they are formerly independent-owned or owned by multiples,” he adds. “From a patient perspective, it’s great to be able to reassure the community in locations where Lloyds branches have been put up for sale that their local pharmacy will remain, so we try to be as visible as possible answering their questions and simply doing a good job as pharmacists.”

When it comes to plans for the new branches, Jonathan says refits are on the cards for some: “While some are fit for purpose already, some need updates, like any pharmacy.”

“New services are also part of our plan,” he adds. “In a least two of the pharmacies, we’ve introduced Pharmacy First Plus. We want to support as many of our pharmacists as possible to start their prescribing journeys.”

Pool Pharmacy owner/director Olamide Olakanmi bought his first pharmacy in Otley, Leeds, in 2021, and added the former Lloydspharmacy in Skipton to his estate in July.

“I used to work for Lloyds a long time ago so I’m very familiar with how they run their pharmacies,” he says. “I felt they were never making the most of their potential, so I knew if one ever came up for sale, I could definitely grow a business like that.

“When Skipton came on the market, it was doing about 7,000 items, but when I did a bit more digging, I discovered that at some point in the past it had done 14,000 items and also used to belong to an independent before Lloyds bought it. So that gave me an idea of the potential I could achieve from the business. 

“The handover started in February and I took over officially on 1 July. The purchase process came with a lot of frustrations and I felt that Lloyds were very heavy handed, trying to rush the sale, but they were selling a lot of stores, so there was lots going on,” he adds. “What made it easier for me was the bank I worked with – Unity Trust Bank – who were very helpful, and a more experienced pharmacist colleague who had dealt with Lloyds before and reminded me that I was the one who was in control of the process, so I wouldn’t get rushed into it.” 

Olamide has already introduced travel vaccines at the newly rebranded Pool Pharmacy. “It’s a low item store, so I have the time to add in more services,” he says, “which is what we are all about in our pharmacies – that and improving efficiencies for us, and our patients.”

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