Grocery stores are facing more competition than ever with the online grocery trend on the rise and other grocers introducing premium private label products. This is why major retailers are trying to poise themselves as full-service facilities with hot food tables, groceries and pharmacies. In fact, industry professionals claim that pharmacies add to the overall value of a grocery store and can contribute to customer loyalty and more frequent trips to the grocery store.
“There is no doubt that many grocery stores see the pharmacy as a magnet to draw consumers into their stores, and to offer a valuable service that also makes money for the retailer,” a Senior Merchandiser at a Northeast-based Supermarket Chain told Drug Store News.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) found that the number of grocery stores with pharmacies increased by about 300 between 2014 and 2016. In addition, NACDS research shows that supermarkets made up 13.6 percent of retail pharmacy prescriptions in 2016, which is a 6.5 percent increase from 2015. The Drug Channels’ 2018 Economic Report on US Pharmacies and Pharmacy Benefits Managers found that prescriptions filled by grocery store pharmacies were up by 0.9 percent in 2017 from 2016. However, the market share for supermarket pharmacies in the US remained stagnant between the two years at 12.2 percent.
An additional pharmacy might also position supermarkets as full-service health food stores. With the healthy eating trend currently booming in the food space, retailers can add value to their health and lifestyle services with a pharmacy. Additionally, these pharmacy services can complement recommendations for healthy food choices by nutritionists.
“As supermarkets look to define themselves as food and wellness centers, the pharmacy becomes an important piece of this health-and-wellness strategy,” said Todd Huseby, the lead partner in the pharmacy sector practice of A.T. Kearney, a global strategy and management consulting firm.
Supermarkets are also recommended to invest in getting registered dietitians in their pharmacy departments. This addition would bridge the gap between grocery purchases and drug purchases by having a professional dietitian recommend healthy foods that consumers can buy in-store and beneficial vitamins they can purchase from the in-store pharmacy.
“The pharmacist is one of the most important frontline healthcare professionals available to most consumers. A supermarket that effectively utilizes a pharmacist and a dietitian can be a genuine health-and-wellness destination,” said Sue Borra, Chief Health and Wellness Officer at the Food Marketing Institute, the trade association for supermarket chains. “There are cases where the nutritionist and pharmacist work closely on disease management. For example, if you are getting blood pressure medication or cholesterol medication [from the pharmacist], the dietitian can recommend a proper diet.”
The health food trend has also increased the popularity lifestyle medicine, which is the practice of healing or preventing medical conditions through healthy eating, exercise, sleep and stress management. Supermarkets can become lifestyle medicine powerhouses with the addition of in-store pharmacies and dieticians.