Like the independent corner store that offered personalised service, informal credit and home delivery, the local pharmacy is on the way out in South Africa and being replaced by hard-nosed retail businesses.
Indeed, the entire sector is undergoing a sea change, reports the ‘IMM Journal of Strategic Marketing’ in its October 2016-January 2017 issue. Deregulation in 2003 has progressively seen the growth of corporate-owned pharmacies and the once-traditional ‘corner chemist’ is now struggling to survive.
Clicks was the first to see the new opportunity and by the end of February this year had 384 in-store pharmacies. It represented an increase of 23 pharmacies over 12 months, and 60 new outlets over 36 months.
“We have a leading 19% share of the retail pharmacy market by sales,” says Vikesh Ramsunder, Chief Operating Officer of the Clicks stores division. It is a market share edging up steadily, having grown from 18,5% in 2015 and 16,5% in 2013.
Overall, says Ramsunder, corporate pharmacies tied to the major retail and supermarket chains now account for about 46% of total sector sales. Other corporate players include Shoprite with145 in-store Medi-Rite pharmacies, Dis-Chem with 100 big-format drug store-type outlets, and Pick n Pay with 26 in-store and three stand-alone pharmacies.
Spar Group has also joined in the fray. But, in keeping with the Spar model, pharmacies remain stand-alone businesses in the hands of their owners.
The attraction of the pharmacy ‘superstore’ model is not that dispensing prescriptions makes money, it’s that pharmacies attract customers who will then shop for more general merchandise elsewhere in the store. Clicks, for example, generates about 25% of sales in the pharmacy and 75% in the so-called ‘front shop’.