Have you wondered why every pharmacy you walk into looks the same? CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, WalMart—they all look like they came out of the same pharmacy factory. Tile floors, tons of bright overhead lights, shelves that have exactly the same products at any location; these are just some of the noticeable features that make big chain pharmacies all feel the same.
Team members at big box pharmacies can have a tough time helping you find what you need. Departments are often sectioned off by managers and teams, making certain employees unable to help you find something specific. Even pharmacists can have wonky shifts at large chain stores. 7-days on, 7 days off or weekdays only. Shifts like these can make it hard to find the pharmacist you talked to when you picked up a specific prescription.
This may sound like bad news, but it gets better with the next sentence. Local pharmacies still exist and you CAN choose to go there!
Stocking for the Community
Chain pharmacies have to stock (mostly) the same products, as store-specific buyers aren’t a position. Buyers exist on a regional level for most chains. Local pharmacies have in-house buyers who are able to curate the store selection to what customers in the area need or want.
Ordering specific products from a chain pharmacy can also be challenging. Most ‘special orders’ at chains are product transfers from another store or warehouse. Getting a hard-to-find product can be difficult, leading customers to look at other places, like Amazon. In response to Amazon’s offerings, most big box pharmacies now have online orders you can pick up in-store, but who can you talk to about an online product you need information on?
Local pharmacy team members are able to tell you about the majority of product lines they carry. Even items not currently stocked by a local pharmacy are easy to get information on. Inventory buyers at traditional Mom and Pop shops have direct connections to sales representatives from most of their vendors. If you have a very specific question about a product, local pharmacy managers and buyers can get you an answer from the actual source!
The shelves at every chain pharmacy look ‘the same’ for a reason—it’s all based on corporate planograms. While their will always be small differences (closeouts, sales etc.), corporate pharmacies reset their product selections on a set schedule with set products.
Many manufacturers create so many products that it would be impossible to carry them all. This leads to planograms constantly rotating new items. Think about Old Spice deodorant. They have a ton of TV commercials featuring dozens and dozens of ever-changing products. If chain drugstores don’t keep up with what’s advertised in current TV ads, customers may have to look elsewhere to find the item they want.
Having new products is great, but who chooses the products that go into each store? Sometimes chain-wide products are chosen by a national buyer—the opposite of what many people need. If this seems counterintuitive, let me explain.
Carrying a constantly changing selection of new products forces customers to make a decision between dozens of products hundreds of times per year. Many of these decisions are based on criteria like smell or ‘new’ features (cleansing beads or something). Wouldn’t knowing what they are actually buying help customers make better decisions?
This is where curated inventories come in. At local pharmacies, buyers are many times forced to work with much less space than their chain counterparts. Less space means we need to make that space count. See where I’m going with this? Yep—local pharmacies stock what they deem to be the ‘best’ products for their customers. In this case, smaller selection is a great example of quality of quantity.
Team Member Expertise
I’ll preface this section by saying that it is in no way a knock against any big box store employees. There are good (and bad) employees at businesses of every size. That being said, training at many chain stores is hyper-focused, meaning it can be hard to find an employee that can help with your needs.
Most local pharmacy employees start out in one role and will learn others as they spend time at the business. Unlike many big corporate structures, local drugstores don’t have to evaluate employees for every little duty or promotion. This allows small pharmacies to sculpt knowledgeable team members who can help with most needs (and if they can’t they’ll find the person who can).
Pharmacists at local drugstores work largely different shifts than pharmacists at big chains. Finding a pharmacist who works both weekends and weekdays is easy, allowing customers to find the pharmacist they need to talk to. Staffs at local pharmacies are almost always smaller than big box pharmacies, making it easy for local pharmacies to get ahold of off-duty pharmacists.
See the Difference for Yourself
Here at Oswald’s, we have been making some big changes to give our customers what they need. Our selection is in the process of being curated to relative perfection. We have different buyers for different departments, each with an expertise in the products they are bringing in. The pharmacy is being updated to make it easier for our customers to get the prescriptions AND the information they need.
Our growing Medical Equipment Showroom is a testament to the work we’ve been putting into product curation. The natural and organic selection has been a hit with our customers and is the fastest growing ‘new’ section in the whole store. And our gift and toy selection is being refined to the point that anyone can come in and find a great gift.
Our store feels unique because it is unique. From our warm, carpeted floors to our throwback kids play area—we want our customers to feel welcome. We treat our community like family because they are the reason that our business is, well, a business.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas, send us an email. We listen to what our customers have to say.
If you’re in the neighborhood and haven’t checked us out in a while, stop by anytime. We’re open 7 days a week and on most holidays!