November 19, 2020
Inside: Stay on top of these trends to make Christmas profitable despite coronavirus.
Like just about everything in the year 2020, the holiday season is going to look a little different because of the coronavirus. A struggling economy and reticence on the part of consumers to shop in-person mean that retailers like your independent pharmacy will have to get creative in order to make your usual sales during the winter holidays.
These six pandemic-influenced trends will define the holiday season — here’s how you can use them to your advantage at your independent pharmacy.
The Christmas creep continues in 2020, mostly because of coronavirus-related fears. In order to prevent crowds associated with holiday shopping, retail organizations like the National Retail Federation are encouraging shoppers to start their shopping earlier. A survey by the NRF found that 40 percent of shoppers are starting their holiday shopping sooner than they would in a typical year.
In a non-pandemic year, you probably expect a rush of traffic after Thanksgiving, but in its guidance about coronavirus and the holidays, the CDC classified participating in big post-Thanksgiving shopping events as a high-risk activity.
To best serve your patients this holiday season, don’t hold one or two big sales that encourage people to all come into the store on the same day. Instead, offer a steady stream of holiday-related deals in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Independent pharmacies hoping that the holiday season will help them make up for some of the front end losses they experienced during shelter-in-place might not have much luck. According to Accenture’s Annual Holiday Shopping Survey, two in every five American shoppers say they are going to be spending less than they did last year.
The National Retail Federation predicts that consumers’ average holiday spending will drop by about $50 this year. However, that decrease will come mostly from food and other “non-gift” purchases.
Even though the overall decrease in spending isn’t ideal, your pharmacy can make sure to cater to what your patients are looking for this year. Devote your shelf space to meaningful gifts at an affordable price point. Spending on holiday decorations is actually slightly up this year, so be sure to have all the festive trimmings your patients are looking for to bring cheer into their homes.
In-store shopping won’t be as common this year as people try to avoid crowds, but the good news from Google’s research on pandemic holiday shopping is that 70 percent of consumers still feel comfortable going to shop in person.
You don’t have to compete with online giants like Amazon to meet your patients’ digital needs. Consumers will be relying on the internet more, with 67 percent of people saying they will look to see if an item is in stock before they head out. To make sure your patients can see your inventory online, your pharmacy may want to adopt technology like Pointy.
According to the NRF, 44 percent of people will order their gifts online and then pick them up in-store. If you haven’t yet beefed up your e-commerce presence, now is the time. Make it easy for patients to find what you carry online and order it there so they can make a quick trip to the pharmacy to pick it up.
Between an increase in online shopping and an already over-burdened US Postal Service, shipping is likely to be a nightmare this holiday season with parcels potentially not arriving in time for Christmas day, even if they are ordered far in advance.
This gives you an advantage as a local business. Emphasize to your patients that they can visit your front end to get gifts now instead of clicking refresh on their package tracker for days on end.
You should also re-promote the convenient services you put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, like curbside pickup, drive-thru, or expanded delivery, this time with a holiday slant to the marketing. If patients are getting their prescriptions delivered, be sure to offer them the opportunity to add on gifts to their purchase.
Even without a giant shipping infrastructure like the big box stores, you can meet patients at their comfort level and ensure they can get holiday supplies if they aren’t comfortable shopping in person right now.
The pandemic has disrupted traditional holiday travel plans, with one in five consumers saying that they won’t travel this year even though they typically do.
While not being able to spend time with loved ones is a disappointment for consumers, it could actually benefit your pharmacy. Around half of people say they intend to spend more on gifts for their loved ones because they won’t be traveling.
These are the top gifts that consumers are eager to receive this year, according to the NRF, so stock your front end accordingly:
The pandemic has been particularly rough on small businesses, but there’s good news from Google on that front: 66 percent of shoppers have said they will shop more frequently at local businesses this holiday season.
Accenture’s survey also found that customers are eager to support businesses that are doing their best to support their workers. Three-quarters of respondents said they wanted stores to close on Thanksgiving so workers could spend time with their families, and 57 percent of respondents said that if a retailer went the extra mile to support their workers during the pandemic, they would be inspired to shop there.
With these trends in mind, make your identity as a small business a prominent part of your holiday marketing campaign. Emphasize that as a local institution, you can give personalized, empathetic service to patients, and in turn, by shopping with you, patients are supporting other members of their community.
You can even use your social media to highlight your staff members by having them talk about what they’re doing to make this holiday season special despite Covid-19.
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.
PBA Health, an HDA member, 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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