The last 18 months have had a huge impact on footfall in community pharmacy, as people’s shopping habits were directly impacted by Covid-19. Despite this, we should all look ahead rather than backwards as we start to take stock of how pharmacy can adapt.
So, how will the greater sense of ‘normality’ within our communities impact the product mix on shelf?
While the wider environment will ensure the traditional seasonality of OTC products will not disappear, we are experiencing anomalies around seasonality. Over the summer, we saw more cases of colds, coughs and flu than normally expected, as restrictions began to be lifted and viruses got back into circulation. With it becoming more difficult than ever to predict what’s coming, it’s never been more important for pharmacies to be agile in what they stock, with consideration needed in stocking a wider range of products as we move through the year.
When we think about what else, apart from Covid-19, has impacted customers over the last year, popular culture certainly seems to have played a part. The Euros, Wimbledon and the Olympics to name but a few, have all had a profound effect on people taking up sport again and, as a result, sporting injuries, including knocks, sprains, and strains, are becoming more prevalent. It is important also to bear in mind that as non-urgent surgeries take place again, pharmacy should be stocking up on skincare products – particularly those that help post-operative wound healing.
Running a pharmacy has always been a balancing act, but that balance has tipped considerably in recent years. While many are getting on the front foot with the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) providing consultation-led services, it would help if more GPs were aware of the service and started to use it.
Of course, consultations provide pharmacies with footfall and the opportunity to sell more OTC products. Aside from the CPCS, minor illness walk-in clinics can be a great revenue driver if marketed and coordinated with local GPs effectively, but again there are accompanying stock considerations.
Lastly, it’s important to consider demographics. For example, the over-70s rely heavily on their local pharmacy for information as well as medications. When it’s been a struggle to see a GP, many pharmacies have become their first port of call - their community hero.
And with many GPs stopping minor procedures such as ear wax removal, community pharmacy can step in by offering products that respond to the changes in primary care offerings. Advising customers on how to stock up their medicine cabinet may prove invaluable for many.
Navigating through the next few months in pharmacy will be all about flexibility – in terms of what is stocked on shelf and how pharmacy teams interact with an emerging customer base with wider ranging needs. We must also not forget how many customers continue to trust pharmacies for advice on their health and wellbeing needs. These relationships are key to pharmacy remaining a local hub and first port of call for OTC products moving forwards.