DALLAS -- Retailers can maximize the value of their pharmacies by incorporating them into whole-health solutions, attendees told SN at the 14th Annual Food Marketing Institute Supermarket Pharmacy Conference here earlier this month.
"More people realize that diet and nutrition is something that can keep them from getting sick," said John Beckner, director of pharmacy and whole health for Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop's Super Markets. "Whole health provides a competitive advantage within supermarkets -- it hits both ends [of the spectrum] with both preventative health and disease management."
To further emphasize the importance of whole health, Beckner said, Ukrop's will open a new neighborhood-format store in August that will highly emphasize whole health and wellness. He declined to give any further details.
By buttressing the natural and organic foods section next to pharmacy and health and beauty care, retailers can create a healthy-living presentation, some attendees said.
Jan Daniel, director of consumer solutions, United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, said in a seminar on the consumer's perception of pharmacy, "We put whole health next to the pharmacy at the front of the store, and we've been blown away by the numbers. It's a tremendous value-added service that has given us a niche in the market."
Daniel urged retailers to aggressively promote whole-health services such as healthy-store tours and disease screenings to their customers.
Health and wellness advocate J.B. Pratt, owner of Pratt Foods Supermarkets, Shawnee, Okla., said he was looking for "wellness solutions, and the integration of pharmacists into wellness."
"We're always trying to push the edge for pharmacists to counsel on healthy lifestyles," he added.
Other suggestions that were tossed back and forth at the conference included displaying store maps at the pharmacy counter that conveniently show the natural and organic foods section, providing drive-through windows to retain convenience-minded customers and positioning the pharmacy closer to the store entrance to increase visibility.
Attendees also discussed the widespread problem of finding adequate pharmacy staffing.
"We gained valuable information on how supermarket pharmacies can present themselves in a more favorable light to practicing pharmacists," said Jay Wolfe, director of pharmacy, Copps Corp., Stevens Point, Wis. For example, he said, retailers can emphasize the fact that they offer a more relaxing atmosphere compared with drug store pharmacies.
Jay Queenan, the western division pharmacy professional services supervisor for Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, said internships are a good way to provide insight into the inner workings of a supermarket pharmacy. Maintaining a positive workplace environment is also crucial, he said. Earning respect in the workplace and having a sense of autonomy "are just as important [for the pharmacy staff] as the salary, bonuses and retirement fund," he said.
John Fegan, conference and committee chairman for FMI's Pharmacy Services Committee, and vice president of pharmacy for Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop Supermarkets, said in the opening session that pharmacy departments can exert some influence over the supermarket companies in which they operate.
"Ours is a unique environment where pharmacy is the tail, but as a tail we have the opportunity to wag the dog," he said.
Despite obstacles, retailers maintained that pharmacies are vital to the supermarket atmosphere because they may give off an elevated status to food retailers and provide a trusted whole-health resource center, among other attributes.
"If supermarkets don't have a pharmacy today, they're really at a competitive disadvantage," said Beckner of Ukrop's. "They are giving customers a reason not to shop at that store."
Approximately 450 retailers, vendors and educators attended the show, about the same number that attended last year's event.