CHICAGO — Pharmacy is a large and growing business that can play a key role in growing total store sales, said David Fong, senior vice president, pharmacy, Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif. While pharmacy is challenged by numerous issues, such as low margins on certain reimbursed prescriptions, increased competition including chain drug expansion and the very strong growth of mail-order programs, and a pharmacist shortage, there are many other opportunities to increase business, take advantage of an aging population, and to tie in with other store categories, Fong said. He spoke at a session jointly held by the FMI Show and the co-located FMI Pharmacy Conference here this week. “Pharmacy continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments of the retail sector,” he said. For example, he noted that linking the health and wellness initiatives of consumer packaged goods companies with the growth in OTC, and the demand for pharmacy services, is a formula for increased sales. However, customers seeking these products “need access to good health information,” Fong said. The pharmacy and pharmacist become a key destination for this. “There is an opportunity to leverage the trust of the pharmacist to help meet the growing demand of the public for health care guidance,” he said.