Supermarket pharmacy programs can increase sales

May 15, 2005

Innovative supermarket pharmacy programs can persuade customers filling prescriptions to shop the whole store. Results of a study, formulated by the Educational Foundation of the General Merchandise Distributors Council (GMDC), were presented at the Food Marketing Institute's 18th Annual Supermarket Pharmacy Conference in New Orleans.

Innovative supermarket pharmacy programs can persuade customers filling prescriptions to shop the whole store. Results of a study, formulated by the Educational Foundation of the General Merchandise Distributors Council (GMDC), were presented at the Food Marketing Institute's 18th Annual Supermarket Pharmacy Conference in New Orleans.

GMDC is a trade organization for wholesalers, retailers, and suppliers of health and beauty care items, general merchandise, and pharmacy products. The foundation conducts studies and furnishes educational materials for the association membership.

Roy White, GMDC's VP of education, said the study was designed in response to a stated member need for methods of leveraging the pharmacy department on behalf of the store in general. The study received widespread support from both supermarket and pharmaceutical manufacturer members. The goal was to create a program that would prompt the prescription customer to shop the entire store but would not be too burdensome to pharmacy personnel. The program would also have to have quantifiable and testable results.

For the purposes of this study, consumer buying habits were monitored for six months. IRI identified "connector" products documented by the household panel to be those that patients with various conditions actually purchase. Data on 14 different conditions were incorporated in a 32-page booklet. Four conditions (heart health, flu, life changes, and allergies) were chosen to illustrate how a program may be produced. The connector products became the basis of programming to prompt the pharmacy customer to shop the whole store. The booklet emphasizes photography to show how actual programs can be created, but pharmacies can embellish the examples as they desire.

To validate the usefulness of the booklet, a store test was executed for the heart health example. Fifty stores were used as a control group and another 50 stores participated in the heart health program. Brochures with a distinctive logo and health tips from the American Heart Association were dispensed in the pharmacy area. The brochures encouraged consumers to look for the heart health logo throughout the store. An end cap was built, containing connector

OTCs (those indexing higher for heart health consumers in the IRI data). Decals were placed throughout the store, highlighting connector products, and signs with the logo and heart health message were provided to be used in windows or elsewhere.

The final step in the process was to measure how the program worked. Of the 15 categories of connector products monitored, 10 had increased sales. In-store interviews revealed that half of the consumers bought something else. Consumers saw and remembered the signs and had a very positive attitude toward the store.

Mike Juergensmeyer, group VP, general merchandise and pharmacy for Schnucks Markets, presented actual campaign results for 10 of his stores over an 11-week period. The program utilized 300 heart shelf-talkers, an end cap with signage and reduced retail prices for 16 OTCs, brochures, and window posters. In addition, a newsletter with a coupon was distributed in the pharmacy. Over 11 weeks, a $1,000-per-store sales lift occurred. The increase was detected early in the program and was sustained over its life.

In another Schnucks study of a "heart healthy" campaign, eight test stores were matched with eight control stores within the same three-digit zip code and with similar pretest UPC (universal product code) volumes. The UPC volume per store per week was measured and comparisons were made in the wake of the program.

The UPC volume in the test stores exceeded that of the control stores throughout the campaign. Distribution of the Heart Healthy newsletter generated 52% greater UPC volume compared with the control stores. All three speakers were in agreement that easily executed programs targeted to patients with important medical conditions could increase sales in the whole supermarket.

The booklet is available as a PDF file on CD and on the GMDC Web site at http://www.gmdc.com/.