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Are your customers fit for travel?

Services Development

Are your customers fit for travel?

Whether your customers are planning a city break in Europe, a trek across South America, a beach holiday in the Caribbean or a British seaside break, suggest a pre-travel consultation

Staying healthy on holiday is the difference between wonderful memories and a trip you would rather forget. Whether you have a travel health service set up in your pharmacy or not, you are well placed to help your customers prepare for their summer holiday, whatever the destination.

Community pharmacy has an important role in advising on vaccinations, anti-malarials and first aid essentials to ensure they have a safe trip.

“Summer travel is probably the most underrated category in community pharmacy,” says Alphega member Terry Reid, owner of Reid’s Pharmacy in Edmonton, north London. “It is such a broad category and covers allergies right the way through to skincare, travel vaccinations and anti-malarials. Offering travel vaccinations via PGDs can provide an additional stream of income for your pharmacy.”

Travel health is an important category, especially in spring and summer. “For customers who’ve booked a holiday, you are their first port of call for health advice,” says Anshu Bhimbat , a LloydsPharmacy pharmacist in Buckinghamshire.

“Talk to them about managing chronic conditions, travel vaccines and first aid kits.” LloydsPharmacy runs a travel vaccine service in some of its stores, which can be accessed by customers via an online application form.

Summer travel offers pharmacies an opportunity to drive sales through a variety of toiletry and healthcare lines. “Customers will come to pharmacy in search of advice for their travels from general advice to vaccination support,” says Numark marketing co-ordinator Cathy Crossthwaite.

Building strong relationships with customers provides pharmacy staff with the opportunity to engage in a conversation about travel plans. “This allows colleagues in store to offer travel health advice, including the vaccinations or anti-malarial treatment they may need,” comments Well pharmacist Jane Devenish.

“It is important that pharmacists meet patient needs to ensure their customers have a healthy holiday,” says Joanna Mills, learning pharmacy and insight lead at Perrigo. “The idea of a holiday ‘basket’ is one that looks to cater for all the potential pitfalls.”

The travel health market

The suncare category is worth about £254 million, according to Mintel, and is expected to continue to increase in value. “The value increase is led by frequent usage rather than advances in innovation, with shoppers trading down to more basic sun protection to overcome extra expense,” says Mintel.

Market analyst IRI agrees. “Interestingly it’s not simply a case of price increases or less aggressive promotional plans that have led to the growth of over £9 million,” says Chloe Humphreys-Page, head of health and beauty retail solutions. “We also see unit growth of nearly five per cent with over 1.5 million more items being sold in this category.”

According to Perrigo, the summer period from June to August is worth £9.3 million. “The latest trend we’re seeing is the addition of kids’ SKUs to the shopper basket,” says Dan Williams, Perrigo commercial strategy and implementation director. “Protecting children is the norm in the suncare category, and this is now becoming the norm across the insect-repellent category.”

Ready for the season

Here’s what you could be doing now to ensure your pharmacy is fully prepared for the holiday season. “I hold briefing meetings with my team to ensure everyone is up to speed,” says Mr Reid. “I encourage the team to start questioning customers now on whether they are planning on travelling this summer.”

“Talk to your customers going on long-haul trips about anti-malarials as these need to be taken in advance,” says Ms Bhimbat. “Similarly, if they need a hepatitis B vaccine, this ideally needs to be done six months prior to travel. Ask them whether they might need water-purifying tablets and whether their first aid kit is well stocked.”

“Consider having a travel checklist for customers that suggests products they should take with them,” says Ms Crossthwaite. “You can then use this as a tool to talk through each area and sell the appropriate products. Don’t forget to update websites and social media to show you are offering travel advice and support.”

Ways to improve the category

“During key periods, such as the summer travel months, brands conduct high-profile marketing activity to drive customers into the pharmacy,” suggests Pfizer, maker of Nexium Control.

“Pharmacists can make the most of this by reviewing the category shelf displays in preparation and taking advantage of educational and promotional materials provided,” comments a spokesperson. For those suffering from heartburn, the experience can be even worse when travelling, suggests the brand.

“It’s best to ensure people have the correct preventative treatments.”

“Many of the products that will feature on your travel health fixture will have their own permanent space within the pharmacy,” says Ms Crossthwaite. Move a selection of these to a dedicated summer travel fixture to draw customers’ attention to these products over the summer months, she suggests.

“Heavily discounted products are hard to compete against,” says Mr Reid. “However, the advantage we have is a personal service and advice tailored to each customer. It’s that personal information and knowledge that add so much value to the customer experience.”

Train the whole team on the risks associated with travel and what customers need to do to ensure a safe and comfortable holiday, he says.

“Make sure all your brands for this sector are displayed together so they are easy to find,” advises Ms Bhimbat. “While providing summer health advice, store colleagues can also recommend anti-nausea, heartburn remedies and anti-histamine products for those who want to take preventive measures,” adds Ms Devenish.

“The key is to group travel items together as customers will be visiting a pharmacy to purchase all their holiday essentials at once,” says Holly Turner, senior marketing director at Perrigo.

Staff training is essential. “It’s important that pharmacy teams are trained in how to recommend travel products for children, those on other medications or those with skin conditions,” adds Farah Ali, general manager at Warman- Freed pharmacy, Perrigo’s centre of excellence.

Taking medication abroad

Many customers will welcome advice on travelling with medication. “Ensure your customer has adequate supplies, with a little extra just in case,” says pharmacist Anshu Bhimbat. “Find out if their medication is available in the country they are travelling to in case they lose it. It’s important to be aware of restrictions regarding controlled drugs and airline regulations regarding liquid medication.”

Many customers may not realise there are restrictions in some countries, comments Numark marketing co-ordinator Cathy Crossthwaite. “Staff should familiarise themselves with restricted medications so they can provide advice and support before customers travel. They may also need to think about how they will transport and store medicines such as insulin.”

Advice includes:

  • Keep medicines in their original packaging
  • Carry medicines in hand luggage
  • For prescription medicines, a letter from healthcare practitioner may be useful
  • Use a cool pack for medications that need to be kept at a specific temperature
  • Some medications are not permitted in certain countries, so get customers to check with individual embassies (see Government advice)


Key questions that customers ask

Q. Do I need any vaccinations?

“As people start to travel to more exotic destinations or undertake more adventurous holidays, such as trekking, they will require different vaccinations and advice,” says Ms Crossthwaite. “It is important pharmacy staff are able to either offer the advice or know where to signpost to.”

Q. Are there any medicines I can’t take abroad?

“Customers on prescription medications may face restrictions in other countries,” says Ms Devenish. “For example, you are not permitted to take codeine into the USA. Staff should familiarise themselves with restricted medications so they can provide advice and support.”

Q. What medicines should I have in my first aid kit?

“Many travellers will want a basic selection of medicines for emergencies,” says Ms Crossthwaite. “You could recommend digestive remedies, anti-diarrhoeals, rehydration sachets and travel sickness remedies. Also consider insect repellents and anti-histamines.”

Q. Will I need anti-malarial tablets?

This will depend on where your customer is travelling, but you can help them check.

Q. What’s the best sunscreen for my family?

You can advise customers on a broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen that is also water-resistant, so it will give protection for all members of the family.


The safe-sun message

One in three people is still getting burnt every year, according to a British Association of Dermatologists study, with 28 per cent of those getting burnt three or more times. The main reasons cited for this were not realising how strong the sun was, failing to reapply sunscreen and not reapplying after swimming or sweating.

This year’s Sun Awareness Week (held 14–20 May) is a great opportunity for pharmacies to raise awareness of sun safety. Part of this year’s campaign is a nationwide bake sale to help raise awareness of skin cancer. This could involve organising a cake sale or taking part in the Don’t Bake Bake sponsored baking challenge:

Tips to pass on

Key advice to customers is to spend time in the shade, especially between 11am and 3pm, cover up skin with clothing, a hat and sunglasses and use a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and fourstar UVA protection.

Ensure that you stock a good range of products. “We’d recommend pharmacies avoid tanning oils and offer a selection of SPF15 or more to encourage safety in the sun,” says Ms Crossthwaite. “Stock well-known, trusted brands as this is a key purchase requirement for customers.” “Bring up the topic of sun protection with your customers,” says Ms Bhimbat. “Talk about how often to apply sunscreen and have leaflets available to give them.”

Make customers aware that they need sun protection in the UK, too. “While people might be more likely to think about sun safety when travelling abroad, it’s easy to underestimate how strong the sun can be here in the UK and get caught out,” says Emma Shields, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK. “The sun can be strong enough to burn in the UK from the start of April to the end of September.”

A common mistake that people make is relying on sunscreen alone to protect them from the sun. “The best way to use sunscreen is to think of it as the last line of defence for the parts of your body you can’t cover up with clothes, as shade and clothing are better ways to enjoy the sun safely,” says Ms Shields. “Cancer Research UK recommends a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and four or five stars.”


Category key points

  • Find out exactly where your customer is travelling to, so you can tailor the advice you give. “By finding this out you can advise them on which vaccinations may be required and if malaria protection is required,” says Ms Crossthwaite. “Advising the customer in plenty of time will allow them to schedule in required treatment. You can also advise customers to put together a travel kit checklist to ensure they take everything with them.”
  • Provide a comprehensive service. “It’s not just about making a sale,” says Ms Bhimbat. “You can offer plenty of advice, too. It’s important to ensure staff training is up to date so all staff can offer advice.”
  • Talk about how to manage chronic conditions on holiday. “Ensuring customers will have enough medication to last the trip, plus a little extra, is essential,” adds Ms Bhimbat.


Pharmacist comments

Shaheen Bhatia, P&S Chemist, Ilford

“We’ve been running a travel clinic for seven years now and it’s become a real cornerstone for our store. It’s a really valuable area and has helped to make up for some of the cuts imposed on other business areas. We talk to customers about antimalarials, sun protection and sexual health, and offer vaccinations – GPs direct patients to us. We get lots of queries about children’s travel vaccines and also about taking medicines abroad. People really appreciate the personal advice service we offer and we’re seeing an increasing number of customers turning to pharmacy for travel health advice. For our summer display, we focus on malaria awareness, bites and sun protection. We run staff training prior to the start of the season to ensure that everyone is up to speed.” 

Jiten Shingdia, RJ Berry Pharmacy, Portsmouth

“This is a really popular category for us from May onwards. Sunscreens sell really well every year, especially our own generic brand, and we’ll get asked about which SPF to use. We don’t get many queries about antimalarials or travel vaccines, as in our area people tend to holiday closer to home. We did consider starting a travel health service in our pharmacy, but there just isn’t enough demand for it in our area. We get questions about insect repellents and sunscreens and we also get asked about what to put in a fi rst aid kit. Our generic loperamide brand sells very well in summer and also our generic high SPF sunscreen. It’s a fairly short, but busy season, so it’s important to capitalise on sales during the summer months.” 

Thorrun Govind, Sykes Chemist, Bolton

“This is a huge area for us as it includes so many different things, from suncreams and anti malarials to vaccinations. People are worried about staying healthy when they’re on holiday and want to be well prepared. The main sectors for our pharmacy are insect repellents and sunscreens, and I’ve noticed that more customers want advice about sun protection. Other common queries include: Will I need anti-malarial tablets for where I’m going? What’s the best type of insect repellent for me? What should I put in a fi rst aid kit? It’s important to have a really eye-catching summer travel window display to draw customers into your store. We have a large stand of summer travel products and then additional products near to the counter as well.” 

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