Skip to main content
_FB_2018-Icons-finalized-cleaned-up_new_FB_2018-Icons-finalized-cleaned-up_newGroup 9
Back
Scroll to top

The Small, Neighborhood Pharmacy Prevails: Part Two


In this second part of our series on modern, family-owned pharmacies, we identify the factors that allow these stores to survive, even when the chains come to town. Read Part One if you missed it.

Those in the independent pharmacy business offer the following 5 tips for staying in the trade:

1. Seek New Revenue Sources

Jesse Pike Jr., a third-generation pharmacist and owner of Pike’s Pharmacy in Charlotte, North Carolina, says success as an independent pharmacy owner can come down to ingenuity.

For example, to boost revenue his store handles medications for a nearby retirement community with 200 residents. Each morning he picks up refill requests and returns twice more to deliver medication. He also has a partnership to serve the local homeless and women’s shelters to ensure they get the medications they need.

“We’ve created these partnerships and it’s kept us in business,” says Pike, whose grandfather opened the family’s first pharmacy in Concord, North Carolina in 1919. “You have to cultivate new business. If you sit on your haunches as an independent pharmacy, you’ll become a dinosaur.”

2. Find Your Niche

Independent pharmacies offer a wide range of services that many of the larger, chain pharmacies and big box retailers do not.

For example, according to National Community Pharmacists Association statistics, the top services offered in 2014 were:

  • Delivery (78% of independent stores offered)
  • Patient charge accounts (77%)
  • Immunizations (71%)
  • Compounding (65%)
  • Sale of durable medical goods (56%)

By offering specialized services, independent pharmacies can become destination stops for customers in need of these services.

Consider compounding. Back before drugs were manufactured in bulk, a pharmacist created and mixed them by hand. Known as compounding, this process requires skill, experience, and equipment that many larger retailers don’t care to invest in.

It is still needed at times today, says long-time pharmacist Del Cranford, owner of Denton Drug in Denton, North Carolina, and part-owner of several other drug stores in the area, including Asheboro Drug and Randleman Drug. For example, if people are allergic to red dye—an ingredient in certain medications—they cannot use the manufactured version. But a pharmacist skilled in compounding can create the same medication, minus the dye.

Additionally, Pike says medications for animals also often require compounding, since proper doses need to be adjusted for a variety of factors, including breed and weight.

3. Be Convenient

At his stores, Cranford says they have worked to find locations that are easily accessible.

Whether it’s due to aging, illness or simply impatience, many people don’t want to have to walk through a big box store to retrieve a prescription. Cranford says they have picked locations that allow customers to park right by the door, and they keep shop sizes small so that customers can get in and get out quickly. And if they don’t want to come in at all, there’s a drive-thru.

At his store, Pike says convenience is always a consideration. He is always happy to chat and provide information but will not hold up a customer who is in a hurry.

“If you aren’t convenient the customer cannot waste the time to come to you,” he says. “And they won’t.”

4. Educate Your Customers

One misconception that owners of independent drugstores face is that because of economies of scale, chain and bigger retailers can offer lower prices.

But that’s the not case, Cranford says. First, many small pharmacies join with other independents to buy so that they can take advantage of bulk pricing discounts. For example, his stores are part of a co-op that buys for 700 shops.

Second, customers with insurance or prescription cards will pay the same co-pay regardless of which pharmacy they visit.

“Back when I started, pricing was a big thing,” he says. “But with insurance and prescription cards, price is not an issue anymore.”

5. Keep it Simple

While many independent drugstores stock more than just prescription medications, most keep it pretty simple compared to their chain-store counterparts, which can stock everything from a family-sized inflatable pool to a slow cooker.

Cranford offers some over-the-counter medications, greeting cards, beauty products, and a few racks of $1 items. But all these combined only make up 15% of his business, with the remaining 85% prescriptions.

At Pike’s Pharmacy, the product line-up is much the same. Barring a rack of greeting cards, the focus is largely on health products. And prescription, over-the-counter, and old-fashioned medicines are in the spotlight.

Both men admit it’s a vast change from the past. The pharmacies they worked in as younger pharmacists sold a large variety of goods and some even included a soda fountain. Both also admit being a little nostalgic for the latter but say the business model of today’s streamlined pharmacy is a lot more sensible for most pharmacy owners.

“It’s so labor-intensive to have a soda fountain,” Pike says. “Have you ever made a real, old-fashioned milkshake? It takes a considerable time, and the profit just isn’t there.”

The Future

For his part, Cranford thinks the small, independent community pharmacy is here to stay. Now semi-retired himself, he sold his business interests to his daughter and son-in-law, Lora and Michael Griffin, both pharmacists. They run the stores today.

“I guess I’m an eternal optimist,” Cranford says. “But I think the best-kept secret is to go into the business. I think there’s a future in it.”

Pike agrees, saying the neighborhood drugstore is a fixture that won’t disappear anytime soon. His daughter is now the fourth generation of Pike pharmacists and he believes as long as independent pharmacies keep adapting to the changing market they can prosper, even in challenging times.

“Our neighborhood has been through some tough times,” he said. “But all through it—no matter what—there was a need for the corner drugstore.”

Trending Topics

Small Business Loans Made Easy – First Bank of North Carolina

North Carolina is a smart choice for any entrepreneur looking to start a business. The state encourages its residents and visitors to shop local. Organizations like Shop Local Raleigh and Got To Be NC have popped up all...

Need Help Financing a Wedding in North Carolina?

If you need help financing a wedding in North Carolina, just seek out one of 100+ First Bank locations scattered from Asheville to Kill Devil Hills. We offer a variety of loans that can help you finance the wedding of...

How to Protect Yourself Against Cybercrime

The number of cybercrimes continues to increase day by day. This can sometimes make it hard for you to completely protect yourself from these threats. But the more you know about these scams, the better chance you’ll...

Best Personal Checking Account Near Me

If you’re looking to open a checking account near you, visit your local First Bank today. Whether you want a basic checking account or a premium checking account with benefits, First Bank has a variety of...

Savings Account – South Carolina

If you live in South Carolina and are looking for a savings account, your local First Bank can help. We offer savings accounts to meet a variety of needs, and we are dedicated to helping you find the best...

Where Can I Get a Personal Loan? – Think First Bank of Asheboro, NC

If you’re looking to get a personal loan in Asheboro, North Carolina, be sure to visit First Bank. Whether you’re looking to finance a wedding or put a down payment on a house, First Bank has a variety of...

Apply for a Personal Loan in South Carolina | First Bank

If you’re looking for a personal loan in South Carolina, stop by your local First Bank. We offer highly competitive rates and flexible terms, allowing you to customize your loan based on your financial needs. Visit...

Your Community Bank in North Carolina

Are you wondering how your community bank stacks up against some of the national banks in North Carolina? Well, don’t believe that community banks versus big banks comparisons are always infallible. First Bank...

Finance 101: Banking Basics

Finance 101: Investing in your financial future is one of the smartest things you can do. But there is more to building healthy finances than simply stashing away extra cash in your piggy bank. In this...

The Benefits of Checking Accounts with Online Access

Out of all the factors that tend to influence our decisions regarding financial management, levels of convenience tend to play a heavier role than others. For that reason, online tools, such as access to checking accounts...