The Retail Scientist Blog

The Retail Scientist Blog

How independent pharmacies can survive and thrive in 2021

Dec 31, 2020 | Articles

There are four key areas for your team to focus on to ensure your pharmacy’s future success.

Lockdown-related pressures in 2020 have accelerated the need for change in most pharmacies.

The rise of the discount chains and online pharmacies makes it imperative for pharmacies to start 2021 with a new plan for adapting to these competitive pressures.

Business change doesn’t necessarily require a large financial investment – but is does require new ways of working.

This starts with:

  1. New thinking – visualising the future state of your business
  2. Starting small – with one person starting one new behaviour
  3. Repeating what works – until it becomes a habit

The most successful pharmacies I work with have built a motivated team with complementary skills covering sales, service, systems and planning. The best-practices in each area are not rocket science – but they do require consistency and focus.

In the article below I list the four key areas for your team to focus on to ensure your pharmacy’s future success. Share this article with your staff and ask them to help you to identify the best person on your team for each of these initiatives.

Better still, get in touch with me to discuss how one of our business coaches can work with you one-on-one throughout the year to help with a personalised change programme for your pharmacy.

4 key areas to transform your pharmacy in 2021

  1. Add-on sales
  2. Instore services
  3. Minor ailments
  4. Digital communications

1. Make more add-on sales


Successful add-on sales in pharmacy improve customer satisfaction by recommending the best solution for your customers. Some are easy and can be done with most customers – but a concerted effort is needed to start these conversations during a busy transaction.


Pick one or two of the suggestions below and strive to add-on these products.

  • Antibiotic support probiotics with every script for antibiotics
  • Flora Restore probiotics with every UTI or thrush sale or script
  • Medicine measures or syringes with every children’s pain relief liquid or cough liquid
  • Vitamin C with every Cold & Flu treatment – have chewable samples or single sachets on the counter
  • Saline rinse with every blocked nose or allergy sale


Step 1. Put the add-on product(s) on the counter near the till

Step 2. Keep a tick-chart at the counter to record each successful add-on via a counter tick-chart

Step 3. Aim for 20 add-on sales and shout morning tea when this is met

2. Provide Services


Community pharmacies’ future will increasingly revolve around easy, professional in-store services as a point-of-difference to attract more loyal customers.


  • Ear piercing
  • Passport and ID photos
  • Compression stockings
  • Incontinence products
  • Sleep services
  • Vaccination
  • Wound dressings and bandages
  • Beauty services e.g. brows, nails, ball makeup


Step 1. Ensure you have all the necessary training and equipment set up for easy access

Step 2. Organise professional instore signage

Step 3. List the service(s) and pricing online

Step 4. Arrange for online bookings in an electronic calendar app e.g. Timely

3. Be a “Minor Ailments” expert


Just like providing services, differentiating your pharmacy from discounters depends upon the advice customers receive when they are in your pharmacy. If your OTC medicines can only be self-selected with no staff input, your customers might as well shop at the supermarket or online.


Here is a list of the “minor ailments” comprising the majority of customers’ needs:

Allergies: Hayfever, Eye Allergies, Skin Allergies

Baby & Child: Pain & Fever, Teething Pain, Colic, Nappy Rash, Baby Feeding, Probiotics, Headlice, Worms

Cold & Flu: Prevention, Sore Throat, Congestion, Coughs, Children’s Coughs

Digestive Care: Probiotics, Indigestion, IBS, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Haemorrhoids, Nausea, Travel

Eye Care: Red Eyes, Dry Eyes, Eye Infections,

First Aid: Skin Infections, Wound Care, Supports

Foot Care: Fungal Nail Infections, Athlete’s Foot, Corns & Warts

Heart Health: Omega 3 Oil, Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure

Home Healthcare: Ear Wax, Thermometers, Dosage Aids, Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Quit Smoking, Incontinence, Weight Management

Immune Boost: Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs, Probiotics

Joints & Muscles: Joint Nutrition, Muscle Pain, Stress and Tension, Cramps, Anti-inflammatories

Nose & Sinus: Runny Nose & Congestion, Blocked Nose & Sinus, Snoring

Oral Hygiene: Mouth Ulcers, Oral Thrush, Dry Mouth

Pain Relief: Headache, Migraine, Strong Pain Relief

Skin Care: Cold Sores, Body Wash, Dry Skin, Chafing, Eczema & Psoriasis, Inflamed Skin, Insect Bites, Skin Repair, Burns, Blisters, Fungal Infections, Scabies, Acne, Scalp Conditions, Sun Protection

Sleep & Stress: Sleep, Stress, Mood, Energy

Womens Health: Urinary Tract Infections, Iron, Vaginal Thrush, Pregnancy, Period Pain


Step 1: Identify the best staff member(s) to refer customers to for each category e.g. “I’ll get Jenny – she’s our Skin Care expert”

Step 2: Prepare an OTC Formulary* listing the recommended product(s) for each condition

Step 3: Ensure the recommended products are clearly, professionally merchandised. Contact me for a quote to prepare personalised planograms for your pharmacy,

Step 4: Promote your advice for these conditions regularly online (get in touch for advice on how to use Facebook, email and your website for best results)

4. Improve communication


Great communication is key for any business.

Pharmacies have been slow to adopt more modern digital communications compared to many other sectors. Online tools are many people’s preferred way to get information.

If you’ve got writing, organizing or marketing skills you could manage communications for some of these channels in your pharmacy.


  • Text reminders for script customers
  • Live Chat on your website or Facebook Messenger for customers’ questions
  • Facebook / Instagram – daily posts to gain followers
  • Blog articles – at least monthly
  • Customer Club Newsletter – Email or direct mail campaigns announcing special events / offers
  • Staff Newsletter – shared via Google Docs so everyone can access it
  • Dispensary newsletter – updates and changes
  • Doctor’s Newsletter – regular updates for your local prescribers


Step 1: Identify your current digital tools / platforms

Step 2: Ask software / marketing experts to help you set up the templates, so they are easy to update and use

Step 3: Start small. Tackle one initiative at a time and ensure you can allocate regular hours to it so it becomes permanent

Change is hard, but if you can build a team that is open to change you will stand out as a leading pharmacy because of your ability to engage with your customers and satisfy their needs.

Aim for progress, not perfection

…and share this message regularly with any critics you encounter.

*You can join our group of 50 independent pharmacies who are growing their businesses using my data-driven OTC Formulary for successful buying, merchandising and marketing.

Contact for information on how we can support your pharmacy with:

  • a personal business coach
  • an OTC formulary
  • personalised planograms
  • professional merchandising
  • digital marketing tools