Independent pharmacies and coronavirus ­– accolades and advice

March 31, 2020By Behind the Shelf Blog, Focus on the Pharmacy Front End Blog, Resources focused on Independent Pharmacy

By Jen Johnston, CHHC, senior marketing services account manager

I want to kick-off this post with a wholehearted THANK YOU! At HRG, we recognize that independent pharmacies are on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic. You and your staff are part of an incredible network of healthcare heroes keeping communities safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.

We’ve culled resources and information on COVID-19 and pharmacy that we’ve split into three sections. To jump to the latter sections, click on one of these links:

The State of Retail

Resources for Independent Pharmacies

7 Ideas for Your Pharmacy to Implement

Here are some actionable steps you can take to help your community and keep your business strong.

Arrange an Infection Protection and Immune Support Endcap
If you are keeping your front-end open during the pandemic, help your customers get in and out quickly by keeping common items used during the pandemic displayed in one place. You should consider select items from the following categories:

  • Internal Pain Relief
  • Cold and Flu
  • Children’s (Pain Relief, Cold & Flu, Vitamins & Supplements, Immune)
  • Diagnostics (thermometers and humidifiers)
  • Masks and Gloves
  • Cleaning Supplies (sanitizers, wipes)
  • Vitamins & Supplements, Immune Support
  • Alternative Remedies (homeopathic items and essential oils)

Limit Purchases
Elements Magazine suggests pharmacies place limits on some items. This will prevent hoarding and ensure items are available when a need arises. For example, if a patient comes in for acetaminophen during an active fever, they can’t wait a day for a reorder. Closely monitor your inventory of these important items.

Compound Hand Sanitizer
The supply chain has not been able to keep up with the demand for hand sanitizer. Recently, the FDA gave temporary approval for compounding pharmacies to compound certain alcohol-based hand sanitizer and some stores have already started. One store in Texas, Magnolia Pharmacy, is even compounding hand sanitizer for local first responders. Magnolia has also started its own Coronavirus updates page to keep customers informed – another great idea.

Become a COVID-19 Testing Site
If you are interested in this, there is a good resource from NCPA here which discusses five types of testing scenarios and business feasibility questions to consider.Make sure employees are easy to spot

Offer Free Delivery and/or Curbside Pick-up
Many independent pharmacies already offer this service, but during the outbreak it is even more critical to help promote social distancing and keep patients and staff safe.

Hours for Seniors and Immune Compromised
Take the lead of many grocery stores and open an hour early so high-risk patients, such as seniors and immune-compromised customers ,can shop without as much exposure to others and to lessen their wait time. Encourage them to call ahead so they do not have to wait in store.

Rearrange your Waiting Area
Chairs can be placed six feet apart from each other so that appropriate social distancing can occur. You can also place tape on the floor in 6-foot increments so that patients know where to stand to keep a safe distance.

The State of Retail

While your primary focus is on patient and employee health, it is important to also keep an eye on what is happening in the economy, specifically within retail, so you can make the right business decisions in the coming weeks.

IRI, a market research company that provides retail insights, recently released a report called COVID-19: Impact on CPG and Retail that describes the three main phases of market response.

These phases are based on the governmental and/or societal response in your local area and is likely to change over time.

Since the release of this report, IRI has shared
several more reports related to the impact of the coronavirus.

Here are some business questions to consider:

  • Which of the identified IRI phases above is your neighborhood currently in?
  • Which categories should you increase supply on? Think in addition to the obvious healthcare items. If your city is on lockdown, having more snacks and chocolate available can help your customers enjoy a moment of satisfaction in an otherwise confining experience.
  • How might you shift your typical seasonal supply of Easter decorations to more grab-and-go items that can fill Easter baskets quickly? Also, do you have a good supply of Easter baskets?
  • How will you communicate through email and social media channels about availability of high-demand products or the way you are working to keep your customers and staff safe? Retaining patient trust is more important than ever.
  • With the economic downturn approaching, how can you create more opportunities for value? Increasing private label offerings is one way, along with stocking branded items seen as “affordable luxuries.”

Resources for Independent Pharmacies

There are many great resources for independent pharmacies on this topic from NCPA and CPESN USA. These groups are releasing up-to-date information designed to help your business.

HRG has been supporting independent pharmacies for 40 years with front-end merchandising and pricing, and we will continue to be here for you throughout the current situation and beyond.