With summer just around the corner, it is time to decide which seasonal items to stock up on so your independent pharmacy will be ready for anything under the sun. Here are the essentials that will make your pharmacy the one-stop summer supply shop.
Stocking a variety of sun protection products is very important, since some customers prefer sprays, while others prefer lotions or a stick. Certain customers do not pay attention to ingredients and are fine with broad-spectrum sunscreens, yet others look for a physical blocker, such as a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. In addition to sun protection, consider sunburn treatments, making sure to carry plenty of aloe vera/lidocaine products such as Solarcaine gels and sprays as well as generic versions. Lip balm with ultraviolet protection is also a great summer seller.
Summer is a prime season for travel. Whether you want to carry products that your customers can take on vacation or your pharmacy is located in a tourist destination, travel-size items are always ideal to carry: deodorants, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, shaving needs and more. Meclizine and Sea-Bands are two must-haves to keep on the shelves for travelers. Many pharmacists also stock plenty of condoms and Plan B products if they are located in a tourist area. Travel johns are a popular item too.
Stock up on a variety of antifungal creams and powders, which are necessary to treat athlete’s foot and other pesky fungal infections that frequently occur during the summer months.
Poison Ivy Treatment
Hydrocortisone cream, Zanfel, Tecnu and Ivy-Dry are always top sellers. Calamine lotion is an oldie but goodie for many customers.
First-aid kits are great for customers to take along when traveling or to keep in the house. In addition to kits, always stock a variety of bandages and antibiotic ointments, such as bacitracin and Neosporin. Cast and wound protector/shower shield products are also important to carry.
Be prepared for allergies that linger into summer, or new allergies, with plenty of diphenhydramine, loratadine and cetirizine in both adult and child formulations. Also stock allergy eye drops and Flonase nasal spray.
Bug and tick sprays are always big sellers, as are anti-chigger products such as Chigarid. Speaking of bugs, always keep the lice treatment section stocked with Rid, Nix and/or other store brands.
Mack’s wax earplugs are essential for protecting ears. Swimmer’s ear drops and EarShield spray are also popular with customers. Green Out shampoo helps remove chlorine from hair.
Break Away from the Competition
In addition to ensuring your pharmacy is well prepared for summer, consider ways in which you can stand out from the competition. Several pharmacists offer their advice.
“Staying ahead of the game in the pharmacy world is essential to our survival,” Greta Schmidt-Ishmael, Pharm.D., of Econo-Med in Cherokee Village, Arkansas, said. “I’m always looking for new services and products to bring people into the store.”
Some of the programs Econo-Med offers are smoking cessation, fertility counseling and medication synchronization. “My primary focus is service. It is the easiest way to compete with chain stores and mail order,” Schmidt-Ishmael said.
Schmidt-Ishmael, like most other independent pharmacy owners, provides local delivery but takes it a step further by targeting employers and schools to let them know about her pharmacy and its delivery service. “It is important for the community to see my face and know me — people value convenience and friendly service,” Schmidt- Ishmael said.
Schmidt-Ishmael also puts a lot of time and effort into social media, creating live videos so patients can talk to her. “It’s just another part of providing convenient service,” she noted.
Kishka Christian, Pharm.D., owner of Neighborhood Pharmacy in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, echoed the importance of customer service.
“I insist that my staff offer personal care with a personal touch,” Christian said. “We always have to remember that we are the last place they visit before they go home, and no matter what happened throughout the day, their experience with us is likely to stay with them.”
Christian focuses on social media, posting health tips several times a week, along with popular “pharmacy shenanigans.” Photos and videos of the staff having fun while working help patients get to know the employees and feel comfortable going to them for advice. Patients love to take pictures with the staff on the pharmacy’s “selfie wall.”
Christian further promotes her business by participating in a local online radio station segment and giving health tips. She added that keeping up with the latest industry knowledge, trends and technology is an absolute must, as it allows the pharmacy to be the first to offer new items and services for the community.
Neighborhood Pharmacy is the only pharmacy on St. Croix that offers a delivery service as well as a drive-thru. Christian’s advice to young pharmacists: “Set goals, make a plan and execute.”
Brian Petrucci, RPh, of SoWal of Miami Beach, Florida, stresses that independent pharmacies need to go above and beyond in reaching out to physicians and patients to make a difference. “Most pharmacies will just report a problem to the doctor. When contacting a prescriber’s office, you have to offer solutions,” he stressed.
Some of the unique services provided at SoWal, in addition to traditional dispensing, including nonsterile compounding (as chains get busier and staff gets stretched thinner, this is a great opportunity for independents), durable medical equipment, free children's vitamins, a $4/$10 generic drug program and an extended 100-day-supply generic program coupled with robot technology to keep a patient's average wait time to 10 minutes or less.
Additionally, selling cannabidiol oil from Ananda Professional has brought in new patients who have ended up transferring their prescriptions to the store.
“We are proud to save our patients time and money,” Petrucci said. He is also very active on social media, posting photos and Facebook live videos as well as investing in paid targeted advertising.