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04/05/2022

Rising to the occasion: As competitors muddy the field, retail pharmacy must remain focused on its differentiator

In his latest column, DSN editor and chief Nigel Maynard points to retail pharmacy’s biggest advantage in its arsenal of tools when competing with rivals.
Nigel F. Maynard
Editorial Director
Nigel F. Maynard profile picture

Every business sector at one point or another will face challenges. Some thrive, while others collapse. If you were a blacksmith in the late 19th century, life was good. History tells us that at the turn of the 19th century, there were 21 million horses in the United States and only about 4,000 automobiles.

Retail pharmacy is also seeing some competition. Under pressure from various entities and business models, the industry has had to evolve. Observers say this is important if retailers want to keep meeting the rising expectations of their customers.

This month, Drug Store News is focusing on who are some of retail pharmacy’s competitors and how brands are adopting strategies to beat those upstarts.

“Drug stores can be confident and proud that they have the ability to offer a high level of patient care in the way of in-person disease management, flu shots, mental health care, pain management and prescription drugs.”

One of the main sources of competition is online, from large outlets and new start-ups selling prescription drugs, but also from established brands who have a strong e-commerce component. Most pharmacies, of course, offer e-commerce platforms that have been invaluable during the pandemic. But more people buying online means fewer bodies in brick-and-mortar stores and less opportunity for shoppers to add extra goodies to their baskets.

Fortunately, retail pharmacy has an advantage: healthcare services.

Drug stores can be confident and proud that they have the ability to offer a high level of patient care in the way of in-person disease management, flu shots, mental health care, pain management and prescription drugs.

“Before and throughout the COVID pandemic, NACDS chain and associate members have remained focused on meeting the overall health-and-wellness needs of patients and consumers, as well as serving as a go-to source for an array of consumer products,” Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, told our reporter. “Over the past two years, the NACDS membership rose to the unique challenges presented by the COVID crisis — innovating boldly to meet changing consumer demands and mindsets, including changes in the way that consumers shop.”

That’s all well and good, but retailers will be wise to not get complacent. They must continue to innovate and expand their healthcare services, and show that they are here to stay — no matter what competitors are doing.

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