Independent pharmacies perceived to be poorly designed but more credible than others in terms of offering advice

Customers of independent pharmacies believe that independents have more credibility offering advice and information services than large chains and supermarket pharmacies, according to research commissioned by the Independent Pharmacy Federation. However, they were also thought to be more expensive and poorly designed.

The findings suggest patients trust the advice given by their local independent community pharmacist who they view as accessible and quick to respond. Pharmacists working in supermarket and multiple pharmacies, on the other hand, were seen as inaccessible.

The research was based on results from an online survey of 906 UK pharmacy customers — 600 who used an independent pharmacy once a month and 306 who used a multiple or supermarket pharmacy and did not use an independent more than once every three months. Eight focus groups were also held as part of the research.

Users of independent pharmacies were more likely to place value on staff, prescription services and relationship factors, whereas users of supermarket pharmacies and national chains were more influenced by the look and feel of the store.

Independents were also valued over multiple or supermarket pharmacies because of their location near to GP surgeries and because they had successful relationships with their customers, the study suggested.

Customers also believed they were supporting their community by using their local pharmacy whereas supermarket and multiple pharmacies were perceived by some as “greedy, faceless organisations”. Pharmacy layout was seen as better in supermarkets and multiples than in independents, which some customers thought were poorly designed and “chaotic”.

Independents were also perceived to be more expensive than supermarket or multiple pharmacies, offering a smaller range of products. Parking at independents could also be a problem for customers who had a disability, the study indicated.

The findings, according to IPF president Fin McCaul, give independent pharmacies the chance to look at their business and identify their own strengths and weaknesses. He said: “The whole point of the research was to allow them to step back and look at their business with a fresh pair of eyes and look at what they needed to focus on to improve.”

The results of the survey were revealed at the IPF’s annual spring conference held earlier this week (23 March 2014) in Hertfordshire.

Citation: The Salvadore DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.11136478

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