Manage Your Business – First Bank North and South Carolina Community Bank Wed, 14 Nov 2018 21:04:33 -0500 en-US hourly 1 Business Spotlight: Archdale Drug Tue, 23 Aug 2016 14:25:20 +0000

Ryan Hoskins, owner of Archdale Drug, had always wanted to run his own small business. He tells us his story of how he started Archdale Drug and what local business means to the community.

Ryan: This is a big passion for me. This is what I’ve always wanted since I was 18 years old. This is what I wanted to do, was run my own small business.

Ryan: But I also wanted to help people as much as I could.

Ryan: When I first graduated from Chapel Hill, I went to work for another Pharmacist, and he taught me everything I needed to know. In 1999, my mentor decided to sell his pharmacy, and so, therefore, I had to make a decision then; do I want to go to work for a chain drugstore, or do I want to open up my own store?

Ryan: I mean, it was just me, my wife, my 1-year old child. I was 28 years old, I had been working for five years as a Pharmacist, but I had nothing really saved up to start a business with.

Ryan: I had zero money, I had nothing to start with other than just knowledge of how to run a pharmacy.  I went around everywhere asking for money.

Ryan: I asked about every bank in the community for money. And, fortunately for me, Steve Foley with First Bank in Archdale was a customer of mine, and he said, “I think we can do something for you.”

Ryan: The first year and a half, I worked 70 hours a week. I worried every night about paying the bills.

Ryan: That one loan from First Bank to start our business changed everything. It got the ball rolling.

Ryan: I could focus on my job and doing what I do best.

Ryan: And the next thing you know, a few years down the road, we’re opening up a second location and a third location.

Ryan: We are like a family. Literally, there are some of my family members that do work for me; my mother, my father, my brother.

Jenny Hoskins: I was a customer in the pharmacy, and Brian waited on me, and it just sort of went from there.

Ryan: We had something special but I never knew it was going to evolve into our relationship and our business at the same time.

Ryan: I think the people of Archdale and the people of High Point want to support the local business, and I think that makes it important for us to support them as well.

Ryan: It would make me very proud if one of my children or all three of them came back and did something within the business.

Ryan: I had my own passion, I did my thing. It’s up to them now, to find their passion.

Ryan: If this is it, that’s great. I think every small town needs small business.

Ryan: That’s what makes the town feel like they’re alive together.

Give Customers an Experience, See Retail Sales Grow Tue, 09 Aug 2016 14:25:45 +0000

Stop in at Hudson’s Hill in Greensboro, and you can do more than pick up some beard balm or denim goods.

You also can plop down on the leather couch in the store’s retro-styled “living room” and watch a movie—The Goonies, Home Alone and O Brother, Where Art Thou? are among the choices—on the throwback VCR.

“We wanted a place where our customers could sit down with their friends and relax a while,” says William Clayton, president and co-owner of the North Carolina business. “So we put a living room in the middle of the store, set up an old TV, and play VHS movies.”

While some retailers might scoff at the idea of dedicating space in their store for things without a price tag, many shop owners today know that their customers want more than a simple exchange of money for goods or services.

Customers crave an experience, a sense of belonging, exceptional customer service, and brands that are in step with their passions, politics, and lifestyle. It’s what retail and marketing experts call “experiential retail.”

Nationwide, this year is expected to be a good year for retail, according to the National Retail Federation, which projects that retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) will grow by 3.1%, an increase from the 10-year average of 2.7%.

At the organization’s recent annual convention, several top CEOs discussed experiential retail and how continued sales growth is dependent upon retailers providing standout customer service and an oasis of sorts for their customers—a reprieve from life’s otherwise rushed pace.

A Sensory Experience

In fairness, the idea of experiential retail is not new, says Roger Beahm, marketing professor at Wake Forest University School of Business. But given increased competition from online retailers, better-informed consumers, and our busier lifestyles, it’s become more critical to success for brick-and-mortar stores.

“Smart merchants were always looking for ways to get shoppers in their door,” says Beahm, who is also executive director of the Wake Forest University Center for Retail Innovation.  “And they are always looking for ways to provide value. Experiential (retail) can add value. After all, a retailer can only have so many SKUs (products) and only discount so much.”

Gone are the days when most shoppers had the time to walk aimlessly around a mall to browse or visit multiple stores to comparison shop, Beahm says. When we enter a store today, it’s usually no accident.

“We have done our research online, but we come into a store because we want to touch and feel the product, we want a sensory experience,” Beahm says.

A Sense of Community

Sally Brewster, owner of Park Road Books in Charlotte, believes we also seek a social connection and sense of belonging when we shop.

“It’s very easy to sit in your underwear at home and click a button to buy something,” Brewster says. “But people need community. And we are trying to make our store an extra living room for the community.”

At Park Road Books, which will celebrate its 40th year in business in 2017, that means you can settle into a comfy chair and stay awhile, have a cup of coffee with a friend, or take part in one of several ongoing book clubs.

And since many people’s living rooms aren’t complete without a dog, the bookstore has Yola, a 24-pound Corgi-Carolina mix who dozes off unapologetically during a lot of her shifts and doesn’t mind if you bring your own dog to the store.

In Greensboro, Clayton also sees his shop as a part of the community. They work to highlight the history of the area and focus on selling locally-made denim, leather goods, and other items.

They also host events that highlight other business ventures in the area or things that are of interest to their customers. These can range from a workshop that shows customers how to use the clothing wax the shop sells to another on brewing beer at home, even though the store doesn’t sell brewing gear.

“We have been very cognizant of the fact that with these events there’s not always an immediate financial impact to us,” Clayton says. “We are creating relationships and a sense of community. And social currency goes a long way.”

A Focus on Customer Service

“Experiential is not just entertainment,” Beahm says. “It’s added value and that value for many customers is added services.”

Customer service is a priority at Park Road Books, Brewster says, adding she tells those who apply to work at the store that, “It’s not enough that you like books. You have to like people too.”

Most of her employees have been there for years and know exactly the type of books that will appeal to their regular customers. The store also will search for rare and out-of-print books for customers. And if a customer doesn’t come into the shop for a while? Brewster said they are truly missed.

“We’ll make a call or send them a postcard just to let them know we are thinking about them,” she says. “If we hear a customer has been sick, we’ll send a ‘get well soon’ card.”

At Hudson’s Hill, Clayton says they are always looking for ways to stand out, customer service-wise. To that end, the staff loves to work with shoppers to create custom leather goods, and customers can get any piece of denim clothing they purchase at the shop hemmed or repaired for free, for life.

Since finding a place to repair denim isn’t always easy, the shop will, for a fee, hem and mend denim bought elsewhere unless it’s too far gone.

“We try to offer those extras for our customers because we care, and we want them to know we appreciate their business,” Clayton says. “We always focus on service and meeting their needs.”

Appealing to a Mindset

Consumers today often want more than just the best deal or most convenient option. They want a brand or product that they believe in—a personality that matches their interests and shares their concerns, Beahm says.

Clayton agrees and says he’s well aware that offering complimentary repairs for store-bought items fits both the company’s mindset as well as its customers’.

“We are selling products that are made with purpose and integrity in the U.S. and will last for years to come,” he says. “We are promoting mindful consumption when it comes to clothing. And our customers appreciate that, they believe in that.”

At Park Road Books, most customers believe in the importance of setting aside technology now and again and reading words on paper rather than a screen. That’s why you shouldn’t worry if your iPad or laptop isn’t connecting to the store’s Wi-Fi signal.

“We intentionally do not have Wi-Fi in the store,” Brewster says. “It’s peaceful in here, and people can relax, read books, and talk to others. Most of our customers are grateful for a break from technology.”

The Future

As online shopping has grown in popularity over the years, so have the predictions that most brick-and-mortar shops will be shuttered as a result. But as much as the Internet has changed everything about our lives, including how we shop and buy, Beahm says he has no fear that storefronts will be abandoned en masse.

For example, he points out that online giant Amazon— which is often named as the behemoth that will kill retail stores—is now building brick-and-mortar stores to better meet customer needs.

The company earlier this year opened its first Amazon Books store in Seattle and is reportedly considering opening stores that sell a variety of other goods.

“It’s not going to be either/or when it comes to online shopping and brick-and-mortar,” Beahm says. “It will all meet in the middle, and a lot of what we go into a store for will be these experiential things:  the service, the relationship, the sensory experience. We will always want that in some way.”

Amazon Now vs. Local Businesses: The New Goliath and David Saga? Fri, 01 Jul 2016 16:17:06 +0000

Jennifer Martin doesn’t subscribe to Amazon, so she initially had no idea why, on a day in early February, she saw two men dressed in Amazon Prime Now polos enter her Raleigh office building and hand a paper bag to a receptionist.

She later learned the Seattle-based online retail giant had opened a new warehouse in Raleigh, selected the area as the nation’s 25th metro to receive Amazon Prime Now, which provides free delivery within two hours of items bought through a mobile app, or delivery within one hour for $7.99.

The service is only available to Amazon Prime subscribers, who pay a $99 annual membership fee and receive free two-day delivery on a huge array of products.

When Martin got back to her desk and looked at her computer screen, her Facebook feed was full of people raving about the service after they had placed orders to try it out.

Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh/Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, wasn’t so excited. On social media that morning, she urged people to remember to shop with locally owned businesses.

“Quickly I received tweets back saying that Prime employed local people and that I was being overly critical,” Martin recalls. “At the same time, local businesses were texting and messaging me saying thank you for your support.”

How Raleigh is Reacting

If Raleigh businesses are worried, they haven’t yet communicated that to the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, says Vernessa Roberts, the business advocacy group’s vice president of communications.

“In Raleigh, companies from across the globe make their home here,” Roberts says. “We welcome everyone and haven’t heard any complaints.”

Amazon launched Prime Now in December 2014 in Manhattan and has rapidly added metro markets. How did it choose Raleigh to be next?

“We select our locations for a variety of reasons and one of the most important is the proximity to our customers,” says Aaron Toso, communications manager for Amazon. “We have a lot of great Prime members in Raleigh and we want to get them the things they need as quickly as possible.”

Toso says daily essentials have been the most popular items, such as bottled water, paper towels, and gummy bears.

Wait, gummy bears?

Indeed, they are the most-ordered item in Houston, Atlanta, and Nashville. Bottled water is the top seller in Chicago, Austin, and Miami. Paper towels lead the list of Prime Now deliveries in Los Angeles and New York City.

Martin worries not only about the effect on local businesses, but she noted the city loses out on sales tax when things are purchased online instead of from the corner drug store.

“Every time you use Amazon Prime Now, that’s one more sale that didn’t happen in a store here that’s paying rent, paying to make the space visually attractive, paying to be here when no-one else was,” Martin says. “Think before you click as there are real impacts in our own backyard. For better roads, for better schools, for better community, buy local and independent.”

Adoption Grows in All Metros

Whether Raleigh consumers will heed such a plea remains to be seen. Amazon Prime members elsewhere seem to like the service, with about a quarter of the estimated 41 million-plus subscribers having tried it, amounting to “extremely impressive early penetration,” according to a recent survey and analysis by Cowen & Co., as reported by Marketwatch.

Toso says Prime Now does offer a “selection of regional products.” The Cowen & Co. survey found that 26% of purchases were from local grocery stores selling their products through Prime Now.

Breaking that down further, the survey found that 33% of consumers age 18 to 34 used Prime Now to buy things from local stores, compared to 25% of the 35-54 age group and 6% of the 55-plus demographic.

Martin was asked whether locally owned stores in Raleigh and elsewhere will try to add or enhance their own fast home delivery, or do the opposite by accentuating personal contact and customer service in their brick and mortar stores.

“Many of the businesses we currently work with are already offering free delivery, pick-up, next-day service and so much more,” Martin said, “but as a community, we aren’t seeking out these options.”

Business Trend Highlight: Experiential Shopping Tue, 31 May 2016 14:35:48 +0000

Modern digital innovations can bridge the gap between the off- and online world, and in the best case, ensure a splendid customer experience that is personally tailored, interactive, and deeply ingrained in a daily activity.

Take shopping and the rise of experiential retail. From storefront and window displays projected in 3D to virtual mirrors that let the shoppers play around with makeup without actually applying it to their faces, technological innovations have been popping up in stores around the country.

Rising Spend to Meet the New Trend

Incorporating technology into retail has made it a breeze for businesses to draw in and retain customers. The more memorable and exciting the experience is, the greater the possibility that the customers won’t be able to resist a second trip to the store.

According to Accenture, in an attempt to attract the millennial generation—with an estimated spend that is predicted to increase to $1.4 trillion by 2020—retailers are leveraging these unique interactions, rather than products, for profits.

A great example can be found in Apple’s open-concept showrooms, where anyone who walks in can touch, pick up, and use the merchandise in an informative and friendly environment. But experiential formats like this are now fast becoming commonplace as stores like Target and Macy’s are building navigation mobile apps and testing alternative merchandise displays for shoppers to use in-store to alert them of sales and find inventory.

Those outside of traditional retail are exploring experiential shopping options too. In England, Fuller’s Brewery came up with the #EmptyPint campaign, a catchy social media campaign that required Twitter users to follow the London Pride page and then post a picture of their empty glass with the hashtag #EmptyPint. The users who did so were awarded a refill of London Pride for free.

How Small Businesses Can Participate

The Fuller’s campaign is a reflection of a grassroots movement in experiential marketing aimed towards using channels such as community networks and social media to reach customers. And it’s one that small and medium-sized businesses can absolutely jump on.

Simply offering customers a cup of coffee with cookies while they shop in store, playing soothing music to help them unwind, having costumed characters ushering patrons in, changing the look of displays to reflect the ongoing season or celebration, or posting contests can greatly help you create a user experience that is hard to forget.

Professional Service Providers: Are You Charging Enough? Tue, 17 May 2016 14:25:43 +0000

We talked with Allison C. Shields, a lawyer, owner of Legal Ease Consulting Inc. in New York, author, and consultant who works with professional service firms to help them better manage their cash flow. She says she finds too many lawyers and other professional service providers are stumbling when it comes to charging and collecting fees.

Most businesses operate in a simple format. The customer pays for an item or service up front and then receives said product or service. No follow-up is required.

But when it comes to professional services firms—such as accountants and lawyers—the cash flow process gets complicated.

Here are some of the most frequent issues Shields identified regarding fees and billing:

  1. Failure to have in-depth discussions with clients about billing and fees at the start of the relationship. Doing this can ensure that the client understands the value of the lawyer’s services and how that relates to fees, she says.
  1. Failure to bill timely. “This lack of consistency sends a message to clients that the lawyer’s bills are not important,” Shields says. “If the lawyer doesn’t think it’s important to send the bill on time, why should the client pay on time? It also causes problems because delayed billing often means the client gets hit with larger bills.”
  1. Failure to create systems for billing and collections that would help them to get paid more consistently and quickly.
  1. Not taking large enough retainers or not billing clients upfront.
  1. Giving away time, undervaluing work and discounting fees. This devalues the services the lawyer provides to the client and creates the wrong kind of expectations.
  1. Handling too many non-attorney tasks and not delegating appropriately.
  1. Billing by the hour. “(This) creates an inherent conflict between the lawyer and their client. If the lawyer works quickly and efficiently, the lawyer gets paid less than if they work slowly and inefficiently,” Shields says.

By way of an example, Shields share how she has been able to build a successful business:

“I don’t bill by the hour, since I don’t believe my clients are buying my time instead, they’re buying my expertise and the results they want to see in their practice,” Shields says. “My work is all done on a fixed-fee basis which is established with the client up front. Fees are charged either on a per-project basis or on a monthly retainer for consulting services and are usually paid in advance.”

“I have frank discussions with clients about fees, terms, and conditions before we begin our work together, and I rarely discount my fees. When I do, it is usually not because the client asked for a discount, but because I wanted to reward a good client.”

Want to read more? This excerpt came from a new white paper written specially for professional services firms. Download it for FREE and get your practice running at its optimal speed this year.

It’s Tax Time, Business Owners: Are You Ready to File? Tue, 29 Mar 2016 14:15:51 +0000

For new business owners, and even experienced ones, tax season can be stressful and confusing. To help you weather the financial recordkeeping storm, we’ve talked with certified business tax prep pros and put together the following list of tips and to-dos.

Start Early (If You Can)

Ideally, your tax prep begins with the first of the year. But if you’re reading this and haven’t started pulling your tax information together, don’t panic. The key to a successful file comes down to 2 factors:

  1. Good bookkeeping: if you put garbage in your books, that’s what you’ll get out of them at tax time, leading to inaccurate tax returns and grumpy phone calls from the IRS. Get organized, keeping your business income and expenses separate from personal income and expenses.
  2. Know your due date: it’s an expensive proposition to file an extension, so be aware of your tax file due date (it’s different depending on type of businesses). If you’re not sure, TurboTax has put together a handy explanation with this year’s deadlines.

Pull Together Your Paperwork

As with due dates, the paperwork required to fill out your taxes might vary given your type of business and factors like how many employees you have and whether you offer health insurance.

However, there are some common documents every business will need:

  • Records of all business income and expenses should be collected throughout the year. Scan receipts to preserve the information as they tend to fade and can be easily misplaced or torn.
  • If business vehicles are purchased, make sure and keep the bills of sale to determine total cost, financing terms, etc.
  • Mileage logs should also be kept in order to claim a deduction for business use of vehicles.

Make sure scanned documents are backed up regularly in case of computer failure. Another best practice is to keep business records available for a minimum of 5 years.

Seek Out Resources

Tax filing for small businesses is much more complex than it is for most individuals, and it’s worth establishing a relationship with a CPA or other tax professional early in the process of starting a new business.

For example, did you know that self-employment income is taxed at a very high rate because profits are subject to a roughly 15% self-employment tax comprised of Social Security and Medicare taxes? In addition, the income is subject to federal and state income taxes.

For a taxpayer in the 15% federal bracket, total taxes paid could be as high as 35% (2015 rate)!

It is also important to plan for tax liability, and in many cases, quarterly estimated tax payments are required. A CPA or other tax professional can help you understand the growing complexity of these tax strategies and the rules.

However, if you’re set on doing it yourself, be sure you check out the IRS’ Business Tax Information website.

Changes Come Up

There are new tax laws and changes to be aware of each year when filing. In 2015, the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act” was passed, and two of the important components deal with depreciation methods—Section 179 Deduction and the Section 168(k) 50% Bonus Depreciation.

These allow small businesses to speed up write-offs of certain assets including vehicles, machinery, and equipment.

A few other changes were covered by, but again, here’s where it can be helpful to talk with a pro before starting out to make sure you don’t miss anything.

First Bank and its representatives do not provide tax advice. Each individual’s tax and financial situation is unique. Individuals should consult their tax advisor for advice and information concerning their particular situation.

Independent Pharmacy Overview: Part 3 [Infographic] Wed, 16 Mar 2016 17:44:47 +0000

In this third part of our series on modern, family-owned pharmacies, we created this handy infographic to help highlight some key facts. Catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2.

Click the image below to enlarge it.


The Small, Neighborhood Pharmacy Prevails: Part Two Tue, 08 Mar 2016 15:35:24 +0000

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.”

The Small, Neighborhood Pharmacy Prevails: Part One Wed, 02 Mar 2016 15:35:23 +0000

In 1960, a teenaged Delbert Cranford got an afterschool job as a stock boy. And it was there at Mann Drug in Asheboro—while lining up shelves of shampoo and aspirin—that he figured out his future.

“I watched the pharmacist help people, and I started to think about what I wanted to do when I was done with high school,” Cranford says. “I already knew I enjoyed chemistry and I wanted to help people, so I decided I’d study pharmacy.”

Cranford went on to run his own drug store, Denton Drug in Denton, North Carolina, in addition to becoming part-owner of several other drug stores in the area, including Asheboro Drug and Randleman Drug.

During his 50-plus years in the business, Cranford has seen the world of pharmacy change. And perhaps more importantly, as a successful businessman he has learned how to adapt to those changes and stay competitive—even when the big box retailers and chain drug stores started popping up around town.

“I think we have been successful because we get to know our customers. They are like family to us,” Cranford says. “We know what they need and we know their situation. And they trust us.”

John Norton, spokesman for National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), says independent community pharmacies play an important role in healthcare and that for many people a pharmacist is the most accessible healthcare provider.

There are currently about 22,500 independent pharmacies in the United States, and these pharmacies dispense nearly half of the nation’s retail prescription medicines, Norton says.

All told, independent pharmacies are an $81.4 billion marketplace annually. They fill 1.38 billion prescriptions a year—about 201 a day, per pharmacy—and employ 314,000 people on a full- or part-time basis.

The History of the U.S. Pharmacy

A hundred-plus years ago, the neighborhood apothecary or drugstore was an important part of a community. Many served as more of general store and meeting place, complete with a soda fountain and diner-style food.

Whether you felt a milkshake, an aspirin, or a shot of cod liver oil could cure your ills, you likely could find it at your neighborhood pharmacy.

Before medication was mass produced, the pharmacists at these stores worked with doctors to create from-scratch elixers, pills, and healing ointments. They also relied on centuries-old herbal remedies.

When Prohibition started, the popularity of the drugstore grew dramatically, according to the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy (AIHP).

Alcohol was illegal and bars were closed, but people still needed a place to gather and socialize. So the neighborhood soda fountain became the place to talk sports, politics and gossip. Plus, with a doctor’s prescription, you might even be able to buy a fifth of whiskey because alcohol was still available for medicinal purposes.

The first half of the 1900s also brought a push for pharmacy regulations, and requirements were set for a pharmacist’s education. In the early days, pharmacy was a trade largely learned via an apprenticeship.

But in the interest of making sure pharmacists were properly trained across the board, states started to require a formal education and degree if a person wanted to be a licensed pharmacist, according to the AIHP.

The second half of the past century brought significant change, too. More and more medicines were developed and many offered actual cures, whereas in the past they often only offered minor symptom relief, if that.

Pharmacists largely stopped mixing their own drug compounds and relied on mass-produced pills and lotions. Consumer confidence in using medications grew as they saw their effectiveness, and they eagerly sought out medicines for a growing list of ills.

Of course, all the progress also changed the business dynamic of the community drug store. In the early days, a pharmacist sold few prescriptions and relied heavily on sales of soda, cosmetics, magazines, cigarettes, greeting cards, etc., according to the AIHP.

But as prescriptions became the big seller, many had to make in-store changes to focus on filling all the scripts. The main casualties seem to have been the soda fountain and café, which required a lot of time-consuming work for minimal return.

Staying Nimble

Prior to the 1980s, small, independent pharmacies were largely the norm, NCPA’s Norton says, and there were more than 40,000 of them in the U.S. But between 1980 and 2000, chain drugstores such as Walgreens and Rite Aid and big retailers like Walmart spread widely across the country.

By 2000, more than 17,000 independent pharmacies had lost the fight against these Goliaths and shuttered their stores.

Interestingly though, as Norton points out, the independent pharmacies that weathered that boom are still going strong. Since 2000, the number of independent drugstores has held at roughly 22,500. Today, 40% of all pharmacies are independently-owned shops.

So how do they survive when the chain stores have been the demise of many small retailers?

Stay tuned for Part Two in our series next week!

Money Management: New White Paper for CPAs and Lawyers Tue, 23 Feb 2016 15:30:23 +0000

Most businesses operate in a simple format. The customer pays for an item or service up front and then receives said product or service. No follow-up is required.

But when it comes to professional services firms—such as accountants and lawyers—the cash flow process gets complicated.

This special white paper features the top challenges that firms in the business of selling their skills often face when it comes to money management.

Packed with advice and actionable tips on everything from how and when to fire a client to fee and billing issues, this is a can’t-miss publication.

Download your FREE white paper to get your practice running at its optimal speed this year.