|Boost Front-End Sales with Proper Merchandise Placement||| Print ||
Pharmacies already have OTC items in their stores, and with a little planning and proper placement, those standard items can turn into added sales at the POS.
It's that time of year when customers will arrive at the pharmacy counter with scripts to fill to combat a variety of winter-specific illnesses. Pharmacy owners know there are OTC items in stock that would go with the scripts, such as cough medicine and thermometers. The next step, and one that will lead to a boost in OTC sales at the POS register, is putting those products right where the customer can see them, and if possible, right in his or her hand.
Dick Bradley, QS/1 Consulting Services, says a managed front-end gives pharmacists the perfect opportunity to get out from behind the counter and consult with customers. "Studies show if a pharmacist can put something in a customer's hand, they'll buy it," says Bradley.
While workflow is a traditional technology buzzword for processing prescriptions, the "flow" concept also applies to customers. It's important to consider how customers move around an independent's stores, recommends Bradley, who consults with pharmacists on the best way to arrange their store to get optimum contact between customers, the pharmacist, and the OTC items on the shelf. He makes a comparison between supermarkets, where margins are also tight, and pharmacy. Supermarket managers constantly check to see how customers move through the store. He suggests taking advantage of these patterns by placing items that are season specific (e.g. hand sanitizer in the winter, sunscreen in the summer), or are familiar from current advertising, at high traffic points.
"The prescription pickup is a perfect place to have seasonal items," Bradley recommends. "With H1N1 and kids having gone back to school, pharmacists are going to get busier, and they need to have some of those [seasonal] items that they can still make money on up close and handy for customers who need them but aren't going to go looking for them."
The first step is to evaluate how customers move through the pharmacy. Look at the pickup and drop-off areas and see what OTC items are there. Consider the merchandise that's most visible. Is it something new that customers are familiar with from television or magazine advertisements, or is it an item that's been there forever?
The goal, says Bradley, is to have customers move around the store in a fashion that not only benefits the behind-the-counter workflow, but presents customers with more opportunities to purchase not just a pack of gum, but also healthcare products, at checkout.
"If it's a seasonal item, such as disposable masks, you don't want it crammed in with the HME products," says Bradley. "This is the time of year to think about it - the cough and cold medicines, for example. The dialogue between the cashier and the customer can go something like this: ‘Do you need this new cough syrup to go along with that antibiotic?' There's a nice bump in sales if you just ask the customer." This even works with a drive-through, when a clerk can ask if the customer needs some ibuprofen to go with a script for a fever.
In addition to the workflow aspect of the pharmacy, Bradley encourages pharmacists to talk to their wholesalers about pricing and specials on things the pharmacy should be selling, depending on the season. For example, this year more people may want to have a facemask on hand, with the flu scare, or an extra bottle of hand sanitizer in a briefcase or the car.
The wholesalers can work with pharmacists to provide counter displays or similar marketing placement that puts the items in easy reach of a potential customer. The relationship with the wholesaler means the pharmacist can provide value-add products year-round to his counter display or other prime location, and there's no need to update the POS database since these are regular store items.
"Pharmacists just have to readjust how they think about the products they already have," says Bradley. "I'll be in pharmacies where the customers are coming in, and then you see them leaving with the small prescription bag, walking right by the front end. Unless it's an apothecary-type store, there are plenty of items for people to buy."
By Maggie Lockwood