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Front-End Fixes for Creating a More Inviting Pharmacy

By Andy Clarey

Patient experience hinges on two key elements in your pharmacy: customer service and store appearance. Both demand diligence, but one is more costly and requires more elbow grease than the other. Use these tips to enhance the look and feel of your pharmacy without breaking the bank or your back.
A woman painting the walls of her pharmacy blue using a paint roller
No matter how diligent you are when it comes to keeping up with your front end, every pharmacy will eventually start to show its age at some point. And if you own an independent pharmacy that’s been in the community for 10, 20, 30 years or more, that kind of wear and tear, in addition to outdated aesthetics, can have a negative impact on patient experience if it gets out of hand.
Pharmacy renovation is the most effective option if you want to make drastic changes, but that’s not the only way to create a more enjoyable environment for the people in your community. In fact, there are plenty of manageable adjustments you can make that won’t require you to call a pharmacy contractor. Here are some simple things you can do to keep your front end sparkling until more substantial improvements are necessary.


Spotting areas that need attention

The first step to improving your front end is knowing where to look, which is easier said than done because so much of your time is spent in the pharmacy. When you see the same shelves, walls, flooring and ceiling day in and day out, you get accustomed to certain flaws and they ultimately become invisible to you. That coffee spill you cleaned and partially covered with an end cap months ago might be a distant memory to you, but to a new customer it could be noticeable enough to draw their attention and leave a bad impression.

While that example probably isn’t egregious enough to send a customer running for the door, the combination of a coffee spill, dimly lit aisles and empty spaces on your shelves very well could. According to Retail Customer Experience, 64 percent of consumers have left a store without making a purchase because of poor physical appearance or disorganization.1

Here are some areas you should be inspecting and addressing daily to maintain consistent quality in your front end:

  • Shelves
    Having properly stocked shelves is a must for any successful front end. Each shelf should be free of gaps and well organized according to merchandising best practices so customers can find what they need as quickly as possible.
  • Signage, displays and decorations
    Price tags, marketing collateral and product displays will inevitably be knocked askew as customers explore the aisles. Straighten these things up every day to keep your aisles looking sharp. While you’re at it, scan to make sure nothing is out of date, especially promotional materials and seasonal decor that needs to be cycled in and out in a timely manner.
  • Lighting
    Light bulbs and ballasts need to be monitored constantly and replaced promptly when they burn out. Having dark spots in your store will not only make it difficult to see the products on your shelves, but it can also change the atmosphere of your entire pharmacy.

These areas should be checked less frequently, but put on a set schedule so they don’t slip under the radar:

  • Flooring
    On average, you can expect your flooring to start showing its age after five years and require replacement after 10-15 years. Regular cleaning will extend the life of it, but wear and tear depends on how customers navigate your store. If you see spots that are deteriorating faster than the rest, you can try laying down mats or runners to hold you over until you’re ready to replace all the flooring. You can also adjust your store layout to funnel foot traffic in different directions and capitalize on more profitable shopping patterns.
  • Walls
    Aside from keeping the signage on your walls up to date, you’ll want to repaint every 5-10 years so your space continues feeling fresh. Between paint jobs, touch up any dents, scuffs and scratches as needed.
  • Exterior
    Your front end doesn’t stop at your front door—it includes the outside of your pharmacy as well. 95 percent of consumers say a store's exterior appearance is an important factor in deciding whether to shop there, and more than half won’t go in a store with a poorly maintained exterior.2 On the other hand, 80 percent of consumers would be willing to try a new store if the exterior was clean and inviting.3 Make sure your community feels welcome by clearing out your entryway, sidewalk and parking spots on a weekly basis, if not more often. Seasonal landscaping and annual power washing should also be part of your standard routine.

When conducting your inspections, make sure you start by entering the store through the front door and experiencing it the way your patients do. Most pharmacists use the back entrance when they arrive and have a totally different perspective as a result. Changing the way you look at your pharmacy is crucial if you want to catch all those commonly overlooked imperfections.

It’s also a good idea to have friends and family members go shopping in your pharmacy from time to time so they can look for issues through the eyes of a customer. Give them a list of frequently purchased items and then meet with them after they’ve had a chance to peruse your store to get their feedback on what they observed.

Giving your front end its due

With so much to maintain, it’s unrealistic for any independent pharmacy owner or pharmacist to devote the amount of attention required to care for their front end. Instead, the best thing you can do is assign someone to the front end and allocate enough time for them to manage all the maintenance and minor upgrades.

This person can be the one who ensures the floors are being vacuumed, shelves dusted, windows washed and bathrooms scrubbed, but more importantly they can keep an eye on all the aforementioned areas that have the biggest impact on patient experience. They can also be the one who determines when your pharmacy is out of date and needs aesthetic improvements, including whether the work can be done in house or if outside help will be needed.

Many independent pharmacies opt to paint and replace flooring on their own to save money. Rearranging your store layout is also possible if your furniture and fixtures are relatively movable. However, a pharmacy contractor will most likely be needed if construction is in the cards. It all depends on your capacity to handle the work and your budget for making substantial pharmacy renovations.

At the end of the day, how much you care for your front end reflects how much you care about your customers. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small mom-and-pop shop or part of a sizable chain of independent pharmacies—you operate a multi-million-dollar healthcare destination with the potential for an unforgettable front end. All it takes is a little attention and effort each day to make your pharmacy a more enjoyable place to shop.

Does your front end need more than simple fixes?

Our Pharmacy Transformation Services team can help you tackle the larger projects like redesigning your store layout and constructing additional rooms so you have dedicated space to provide patient care services. Whether it’s a simple heavy lift or a complete overhaul, we lean on decades of pharmacy renovation and merchandising experience to maximize your profitability by evolving the way your store feels and functions from top to bottom.
A CAD illustration for a pharmacy transformation plan

1. Retail Customer Experience. The Real Impact of Store Appearance on Your Bottom Line.

2. Ibid

3. Ibid

About The Author

Andy Clarey
Senior Director, Merchandising and Pharmacy Transformation Services
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