Merchandising Basics: Front-End Tips From an Industry Expert

Merchandising Basics: Front-End Tips From an Industry Expert by Elements magazine |

Inside: Quick tips from the leading merchandising expert in pharmacy on how to get patients to buy more. 

Whether you want to boost your independent community pharmacy’s front-end sales, introduce a new line of products into your store, or enhance your patients’ shopping experience, now’s the time to improve your merchandising.

“The best merchandiser wins. It’s that simple,” said Gabe Trahan, senior director of store operations and marketing at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

Get ahead of your competition and gain foot traffic by differentiating your store through superior merchandising. Consistently updating displays in your front end can help your pharmacy appear up-to-date and drive patients to shop at your pharmacy, in addition to filling their prescriptions.

“A merchandiser who can attract the customer’s attention and add perceived value to an item will increase sales and revenue,” Trahan said. “And, remember front- end sales are cash.”

Here are a few merchandising basics to get you started.

Planogram potential

To begin the process of arranging new merchandise, Trahan recommends utilizing planograms.

“Planograms should be viewed as a map pointing you toward proper sub-category placement, priority product placement, new item placement and suggestions on removing slower selling items,” he said. “Like all maps, planograms offer ways to get you to where you want to go. It’s up to a good merchandiser to explore other routes without wandering in the wrong direction.”

Learn everything you need to know about planograms. 

Value not size

Merchandize your products by value—not size. “The item with the biggest ring at the register goes at eye level,” Trahan said. “An example is a typical end cap of vaporizers and facial tissue with tissue on the top and vaporizers at the bottom. Experienced merchandisers will reverse that placement with the vaporizers on top.” It’s also a good idea to add a prominent sign to your end cap to draw shoppers in.

Acquire new ideas

Take a look at your competition for ideas. Notice what products those pharmacies offer or how their store layout is set up. “Look at the competition; look at your patient base; and find what products and departments it makes sense to add or update,” Trahan said.

Change it up

Regularly rearrange your merchandise. “End caps should be redone at least every two weeks,” Trahan said. “Get an extra two weeks out of the display by relocating the end cap.”

Trahan also recommends changing every over-the- counter (OTC) planogram category once a year. “You know you’re doing a good job when customers complain that you’re always moving things around,” Trahan said.

Merchandising not decorating

Trahan reminds independent pharmacies not to confuse merchandising and decorating. “Be the best at merchandising, and don’t decorate,” he said. “Instead, let the items be the star on the shelf.”

RELATED: Merchandising Mistakes Your Pharmacy May Be Guilty Of

Bundle buying

Grouping certain items together can encourage companion purchases. “Place facial tissue in the cough and cold department along with vitamin C, hand sanitizer, thermometers and new toothbrushes, so customers can throw those germs away,” Trahan said.

Think about certain items you offer that may not seem like they go together, but when they do, they increase a sale from just one item to two or three more purchases.

Hire well

Trahan suggests investing in hiring a front-end manager. “Too many stores struggle because the person who orders and merchandises the front end is the employee who isn’t busy at the time,” he said. “Invest in a front- end manager. Work closely with this team member on section profitability and marketing.”

With more than 30 years of pharmacy management experience, Gabe Trahan, senior director of operations and marketing at NCPA, offers merchandising advice to help increase business and foot traffic at your pharmacy. For tips, ideas and advice on how to increase your pharmacy’s front-end profits, follow Trahan on Twitter at @NCPAGabe or check out NCPA’s front-end program, Front-End Overhaul.


Products to stock

How trendy is your pharmacy? Gabe Trahan, senior director of store operations and marketing at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), suggests popular front-end products for your pharmacy to promote.

Premium supplements
Promote supplements that support energy and heart health

Skin care
Offer sales on anti-aging or sun care products

Compression hosiery
Provide a special on compression hosiery


Merchandising mistakes

Avoid these common mistakes for better merchandising.

  • Don’t put the price of an item on the front of its packaging
  • Don’t use your most prominent end cap to sell clearance items
  • Don’t keep clutter on your pick-up and drop-off counters
  • Don’t display more than one or two items at each counter
  • Don’t stock fewer than three of each item


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is an independently owned pharmacy services organization based in Kansas City, Mo., that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, distribution services, and more.

PBA Health, an HDA member, operates its own VAWD-certified 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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Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

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