July 16, 2020
As a pharmacist, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and only see your pharmacy from behind the counter. If you never get out and walk around your pharmacy, you’re missing out on seeing your pharmacy from your patients’ perspective.
It’s important to think about your pharmacy through the eyes of your patients. When they arrive, what do they see? Is your storefront well-kept? Does your front end look clean and organized? If you don’t know what your pharmacy looks like from your patients’ point-of-view, you could be overlooking details that are driving patients away.
Once a month, enter from the front door of your pharmacy and walk through the store like a patient would. You might be surprised to find your product placement isn’t as intuitive as you thought, or you could see cluttered areas that you don’t notice from behind the pharmacy counter. Here are five commonly overlooked aspects of your pharmacy’s layout and appearance for you to consider.
If your aisles are too narrow or cluttered, patients might be less willing to wander through them. Don’t let poor spacing cost your pharmacy front-end sales.
If you’re wondering if your aisles are too narrow, recreate a patient’s shopping experience by walking through the aisles while carrying a shopping basket. If you feel cramped, consider reorganizing your pharmacy to make it more spacious.
You should also think about your aisle spacing from the perspective of patients who have mobility issues. Would someone using a wheelchair, walker, or cane be able to easily navigate through your aisles? What about a person with visual impairments?
The ADA requires that there be an accessible route at least 3 feet wide throughout the entire business. Also consider these factors:
Your pharmacy’s layout should be easy to navigate. Is there a natural flow when you walk into your pharmacy? Is there a clear path for patients to get from the front door to the pharmacy counter? Are any aisles difficult to access? Does the arrangement encourage patients to shop in the front end?
No two pharmacies will have the exact same perfect layout, and how you lay out your front end will depend on the shape and size of your space. But some basic rules do apply. When patients walk in, the first 10 feet should be a “decompression zone” clear of merchandise to give them a chance to collect themselves before they start to shop.
Most patients will take a counter-clockwise path through the pharmacy, and by using a loop layout for your shelves, will expose patients to as many products as possible before they reach the pharmacy counter.
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Product positioning is a key element that’s often missed. It’s crucial to group products in a way that’s naturally intuitive to shoppers. For example, keep bandages and antibiotic ointment near each other, and avoid separating similar products, like two different brands of cough drops. Patients shouldn’t have to walk across your store to compare two brands of the same type of item.
Use high visibility areas to display products that could be enticing impulse buys. Endcaps, countertop displays, speed bins in the middle of the aisle, and the checkout counter are excellent locations for impulse buys. Promoting products that meet an immediate need — like cell phone chargers, food and drinks, last-minute gifts, and seasonal items — will encourage patients to increase their basket size.
If you’re not sure to start when arranging your products, you can always turn to planograms for assistance. These visual diagrams use industry research on product trends and show pharmacies where to place front-end products in order to encourage patients to buy more and increase profits.
Your front-end staff members are an important fixture in your store, and where they are when patients walk through the door can add or detract from their first impression. If a patient walks in and there are no staff members in sight, your pharmacy will seem like a ghost town.
If there are plenty of staff on the floor, but they are all clustered together in one area, that can prevent patients from getting the products they need because they are too intimidated to break things up.
Top-notch customer service means that there are ample people on the floor who are ready to attend to patients’ needs. Whoever is stationed closest to the door should greet folks as they walk through the door.
Staff should let patients browse independently without looming too closely—no one wants to feel like they are being watched—but remain near enough that if a patient has a question, staff members are accessible to give an answer. Make sure your staff is well-informed on the products you carry so they can be ready for any question that comes their way.
Disheveled displays can frustrate patients, so have staff straighten up throughout the day. Overfilled shelves and precariously stacked items can be easily knocked over, but even shelves that are stocked in a tidy manner can quickly become a mess when patients put items back in the wrong place.
Beyond shelving, create a daily housekeeping list to make sure the front end is well-maintained. Dusty corners and smudged windows can create the impression that your store isn’t hygienic, which will drive patients away.
Read next: 6 Tips to Keep Your Pharmacy Organized
Because no one really wants to take on janitorial duties, it’s important to assign these tasks to staff members to create accountability. Rotate responsibilities frequently so no one employee feels like they are getting the short end of the stick.
PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.
An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.
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