The Bright Side (Businesses) of Independent Pharmacies

The Bright Side (Businesses) of Independent Pharmacies

independent pharmacies From pharmacy’s inception, patients have arrived at the door seeking more than medicine – and although selling side items is nothing new, dwindling profits on prescriptions make it increasingly important for revenue. Some pharmacies are fully embracing side businesses, making their stores shopping destinations for reasons other than typical drugstore fare. Like independent pharmacies themselves, the side businesses reflect the character of both the pharmacist and the community.

Personal Wellness

For example, the side business may manifest the pharmacist’s desire to support patient health in a fully cohesive way. In addition to an urgent/primary care clinic and lab, QuickCare (QC) of Huntsville, AL, focuses on integrated health and wellness, from weight loss and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to aesthetics, nutraceuticals and supplements1. QC pharmacist Brett Enabnit said, “In our overall wellness program, practitioners collaborate to assess a client’s overall health and function. Not only do we find out what a client’s issues are, we find the cause and can potentially correct it. Our goal is not only to have our clients healthy, but feeling optimal.” QS/1 Market Analyst Justin Buckland said, “So many people today are trying to be more active and take the right supplements, and the pharmacist at QC is there to help and answer questions. Every day prescriptions are filled, and with those may come vitamin deficiencies. Being able to recommend supplements to fill those voids can be huge to your pharmacy and your customers.”

Other pharmacies might take a more targeted approach to wellness. For example, a full-service optical clinic was recently integrated into a chain’s Vancouver, BC, store and a family-owned store, Fowler’s Pharmacy in Greenville, SC, purports to house one of the largest collections of sunglasses in the country with more than 8,000 pairs.

Another area of high interest and emerging opportunity is hearing aids. Recent legislation paves the way for over-the-counter hearing aids, and FDA-approved sound amplification products exist that can help those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. This market could be huge; more than 35 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss.2

Following these examples, it’s easy to think of a pharmacy dedicating itself to a side business in skin wellness, such as anti-aging treatments, seasonal concerns/ailments, specialty cosmetics or spa services. In another wellness category, continued growth in sleep-aid sales and the burgeoning public awareness of sleep’s importance to health might lead a pharmacy to become a destination for sleep enhancement.

Local Flavor

Pharmacies in decades past were community destinations because of their soda fountains. Nye’s Pharmacy in Conway, SC, is so beloved it inspired a volunteer effort to refurbish its iconic red sign. Pharmacist Matt Combs said, “The fountain has been a fundamental part of the pharmacy since its opening in 1927…People can have lunch, a cherry Coke or an ice cream while they wait on their prescriptions. They don’t have to be in a hurry…Most people do not feel good when they come into a pharmacy. Anything that can relieve that stress definitely serves as a benefit.” But nostalgia isn’t a necessary ingredient to be a comfort zone for customers. A pharmacy could have a counter for baked goods or offer massage therapy.

Another way to capitalize on local flavor is to showcase the area’s arts, crafts and handmade goods. A pharmacy in Missouri looked at its inventory data and decided to ditch common drugstore offerings, such as shampoo and lotions. Their “Pharmers Market” now focuses on local-only goods, from honey and jam to birdhouses and candles.

Is your location’s big product team loyalty? Think about collegiate products as a side business. Buckland said, “When we

visited pharmacies in NC, every one of them had their team of choice up front with products for sale.”

Recognizing the buying power of minority customers, a pharmacy might cater to a particular cultural group in the community. For example, when she took over her Asian immigrant father’s pharmacy in Chicago, one woman envisioned the business as an East-meets-West pharmacy experience, including compounding and acupuncture services.3

Popular and Trending

Another approach is to cultivate a side business based on popular product categories. A pharmacy could feature a dedicated holiday shop stocked with a rotating selection of decor and gifts. Holiday purchasing is reliably popular, not just at Christmas and Halloween. On Mother’s Day, bouquet sales go up by 1,049 percent compared to the average week.4

A look at consumer research could inspire a side business dedicated to pets. According to a recent Nielsen study, pet care is the top trip driver of any fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) category.5 There’s also strong sales data for clean label products, those with simple, non-artificial ingredients; despite growing demand, clean label items remain underrepresented in the drugstore channel.6

Based on the perennial popularity of travel, a pharmacy in Seattle, WA, found its niche providing travel vaccinations more quickly than the weeks’ wait common for a doctor’s appointment. Along with its array of travel items, the store earns upward of $600 for each travel vaccination appointment.7

The Business Side

So how would a pharmacy go about implementing a side business? Start with self- and community knowledge. Pharmacy owners should consider their areas of expertise and their individual interests, including any desire to cultivate a sideline for greater personal fulfillment, not just revenue diversity. Draw on observations from the community. Does your locale attract outdoor enthusiasts, organic shoppers or retirees? Let their needs and interests be a guide.

Crucial for any good business decision is reliable data; this includes a point-of-sale (POS) system. Buckland said, “It doesn’t take long to see the benefits of POS. A good POS system is a game changer when it comes to tracking inventory, and being able to run reports and see what items sell and when can play a huge role.” This shopping pattern data allows owners to fine-tune their merchandising decisions.

And remember, independent pharmacists have always been both business owners and caregivers to their communities. Adding a side focus to their store is just another way they are living out this dual role. Independent pharmacists today are using self-knowledge, experience with their communities and solid sales data to form side businesses that help them stay relevant, profitable and personally fulfilled.


1 Nutraceuticals - Nutraceuticals is a broad umbrella term used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.

2 Neighmond, Patti; Greenhalgh, Jane. Is it Time for Hearing Aids to be Sold over the Counter? April 24, 2017. Web. 12 October 2017.

3 East Meets West: Mini TX Pharmacy. 2015. Web. 12 October 2017.

4 Flowers for Mother’s Day Are a Win for Retailers. May 11, 2017. Web. 12 October 2017.

5 Jones, Courtney. Perspectives: Multicultural Shoppers are Drug Stores’ Growth Opportunity. September 28, 2017. Web. 12 October 2017.

6 Rains, Laurie. Perspectives: Drug Stores Need to Make Healthy Living Habitual. May 4, 2017. Web. 12 October 2017.

7 Cardinal Health Announces Three Community Pharmacy Best Practice Winners Who Set the Standard for Innovation. July 24, 2015. Web. 12 October 2017.

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