Written by Ketan Shah, National Sales Manager at Veggie-mart.
A natural product is a chemical compound found in nature that may have a pharmacological or biological activity. Makes sense doesn’t it? It is regrettable then that businesses based on evidence-based modern medicine and what is now termed alternative medicine have evolved separately and often serve different customer types.
In an era when more and more people are being pro-active about the health of their families, and questioning received wisdom, it makes perfect sense that contemporary independent pharmacies should fully exploited the commercial potential of the natural products industry.
One cannot think of a better retail environment than an independent pharmacy as a profitable channel of natural products – there you have a scientifically trained pharmacist-proprietor, uniquely positioned to make a critical assessment of the suitability of natural products used alone or in conjunction with conventional medicine.
In addition, pharmacies are strongly connected to the health of their local communities, with a guaranteed footfall of patients either with scripts or simply looking for advice from a respected healthcare professional. The community pharmacist is aware of the particular circumstances of her patients and is best placed to give advice about whether or not natural products will have health benefits and can form part her customers’ health management
Independent pharmacies have stocked a reasonable range of vitamins, minerals and some herbal and homeopathic products for a number of decades, but it’s now time to dramatically expand the scope of their offering given the increasing interest of a more health-conscious public looking for choice. The growth in sales of natural products is also being driven by the UK’s ageing population.
People use natural products for all kinds of reasons: for boosting their own and children’s health; for vitality; limit the signs of ageing; cut the risk of chronic diseases; treat specific ailments; and live in homes and work in environments as free as possible from environmental pollutants and toxins.
How can independent pharmacies fully exploit this lucrative and yes, ethical market?
First, ensure you cover the key natural health and wellness categories. There are literally dozens of these, but be careful about investing in too much stock in too many areas. Start with the basics and grow from there. The following categories should most certainly form the core of your offering: Joint and Muscle Care, Cardiovascular, Skin and Hair Care, Mother and Baby, Mental Health, Immunity, Digestive Aids, Weight and Blood Sugar Management, Herbals, Eco Household Products, and Health Foods.
Within these main categories, there are many sub categories that provide many opportunities for cross-selling: e.g. household, body, VMS and essential fatty acid products to tackle eczema or herbal, probiotic, VMS and food products for IBS are obvious examples.
Second, it’s critical that that you integrate your merchandising with the rest of your store so that these categories are perceived to be part of your overall retail healthcare offering, and are not regarded by your customers as separate and distinct from conventional pharmacy products and only for a certain “class” of customer
Third, keep abreast of industry and regulatory trends. Your best sources of information are trade media and trade shows. Your wholesaler can also indicate new innovations or products that could give you a potential lead over the more generic offerings of less well informed retail competition.
Fourth, insist to your wholesaler that you are well supported with free point of sale material, sampling, access to technical information via print or electronic media, and educational material for your counter staff.
Fifth, ensure that your staff have bought into this exciting new venture by actively involving them in the selection of the natural products categories, giving them access to product education materials, and encouraging them to participate in free CPD or distance learning courses provided by the brands.
The natural products industry is one in which everyone in your store can become passionate about since it is one area where they can make a direct link between the health and well being of their families and the products on the shelves.