HARPS EXPANDS PHARMACY, UPDATES SOFTWARE

SPRINGDALE, Ark. -- Harps Food Stores here will open a new pharmacy this month in a supermarket in Rogers, Ark., giving the chain a total of seven pharmacies.The 39-store Arkansas chain has three pharmacies in its conventional Harps stores, located in Springdale, Fort Smith and Fayetteville, and four in its Price Cutter warehouse prototype stores, in Rogers, Springdale, Cabot, and Poteau, Okla.Donald

SPRINGDALE, Ark. -- Harps Food Stores here will open a new pharmacy this month in a supermarket in Rogers, Ark., giving the chain a total of seven pharmacies.

The 39-store Arkansas chain has three pharmacies in its conventional Harps stores, located in Springdale, Fort Smith and Fayetteville, and four in its Price Cutter warehouse prototype stores, in Rogers, Springdale, Cabot, and Poteau, Okla.

Donald Curran, pharmacy director, said Harps was planning to add one or two other pharmacies this year, based on need in individual store locations. "We do a survey and look at some demographics and traffic count and the number of pharmacies in the town," he noted.

In the meantime, Harps is relocating a pharmacy from one of its Fort Smith units to another unit in the same town, only a few blocks away.

"In the old store, the pharmacy was in a poor location in the back of the store -- that gives you no exposure," said Curran. "In the new store, the pharmacy will be near the front door. The best location for a pharmacy is close to the shopping area, close to the front door, with good visibility.

"Most grocery stores have a flow-through. If we're in the beginning of the flow, then it works nicely," Curran added.

He expects pharmacy business will double in the new location. Having a pharmacy near a supermarket's front entrance allows shoppers to drop their prescriptions off first, do their shopping and collect their medication afterward, he said. Customers pay for their prescriptions at the pharmacy.

According to Curran, opening inventory for a new pharmacy costs somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000. "We want to make sure it's going to be profitable," he said. Supermarkets have to get proper licensing from state boards, and hiring qualified personnel is key, he added.

Pharmacy is a competitive business in Arkansas, Curran noted. "We're sitting in Wal-Mart's front door, so we know about competition. The good thing about a supermarket is you have a captive audience of 10,000 to 20,000 people shopping each week. They want something convenient and competitive price-wise. If they are going to be in here buying bread and milk, if we can service their pharmacy needs at a competitive price, then there's no reason they shouldn't shop with us."

Curran pointed out that most people have third-party insurance cards. "They will pay the same co-pay whether they get their prescription filled here or down the street. Most of it is a matter of convenience."

With Harps expanding its pharmacy operation, the chain is in the process of installing the Zadall software system. "We are trying to get our computer system more standardized for a larger pharmacy operation," Curran said. "We had a local system before. The change is going to take a little time. It's not going to be easy."