Most consumer purchases in pharmacies are not planned very far in advance. Pharmacy managers use pharmacy design, layout of fixtures, and merchandising of products to affect the purchasing behaviors of their customers. Studies have shown that more than 80 percent of all purchases are made by people who less than a week before their purchases were not planning to buy these particular items (Eisenpreis, 1983). The primary reasons why consumers make unplanned purchases are emergencies (running out of a needed item), latent buying interests brought on by a good price or a new product, and impulse purchases (buying on a whim to try something new or different).
An important contribution to sales success is the store design and layout of merchandise. Getting people into a pharmacy, making it easy to find and purchase both needed and wanted items, and increasing the number of return visits consumers will make to a pharmacy—all can be influenced by design and layout factors. The design and layout of a pharmacy must allow for customer convenience, ease of shopping, and an exciting atmosphere that will promote the selling of both goods and services.
Today's consumers demand convenience, service, and ambience. While pharmacies have not always been known for these attributes, consumers have come to expect a certain atmosphere and comfort level from any retail establishment.
From the 1940s to the 1960s, pharmacy store design and decor did not highlight merchandise or professional activities. Most pharmacies carried a mix of staple items, tobacco, and liquor; had soda fountains; and gave little thought to where the best place might be to locate these items in the store. During the 1970s and 1980s, pharmacy designs transitioned to highlight the products to be sold, resulting in simpler decor and allowing the merchandise to become part of the pharmacy's design.
It is important to select the most appropriate design aspects for a pharmacy without becoming too trendy or rapidly outdated. The target of today's pharmacy designs is the shopper. To determine a pharmacy design, managers first must determine the characteristics and needs of the customers to be served. Customers want pharmacies that are convenient, well organized, and in supply of the goods and services they desire when they need them. Pharmacies that frustrate disappoint, or waste consumer time searching for items will not be patronized.
Women are the key decision makers for the family and make most pharmacy purchase decisions. Today, families have to be efficient with their time and are spending less time planning shopping trips and are making more decisions in the store. Retailers, including drugstores, are making adjustments to their stores to allow people to get in and out quicker.
The size of a pharmacy or pharmacy department commonly is determined by industry averages or by evaluating the sales per square foot of various pharmacy departments. Store managers can obtain industry information on the ideal size for their pharmacies from wholesalers and other vendors, as well as from their professional associations (e.g., National Community Pharmacists Association or National Association of Chain Drug Stores).
Managers can calculate the ideal size of a department (an area within a pharmacy that contains related goods or services) by estimating the total dollar amount of sales from that department and dividing by their expected sales per square foot. While this method is simple to use, it should be applied with care and common sense. Estimates of sales are not always accurate indicators of the need for space for particular types of goods and services. The characteristics of space inside the store (e.g., walls, lighting, and fixtures) and the physical characteristics of the goods and services to be sold in a department both should be considered when allocating space within a pharmacy (Rodowskas, 1996).
Another key point when designing a pharmacy is to make sure that prescription dispensing and counseling sections are in step with the profession. With pharmacists providing an array of counseling, education, and patient care services, additional space for pharmacists to talk privately with patients may be needed. Setting aside and designing an appropriate consultation area and a patient waiting area are important. Many pharmacies also sell items that do not require a prescription, but they often sell better if a pharmacist is available to explain their use to patients (e.g., durable medical equipment, blood glucose monitors, or natural products). These departments often are placed near the prescription department for the convenience of both the patient and the pharmacist.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has affected almost all businesses, including pharmacies. This federal mandate prohibits discrimination based on any form of disability. To comply with the ADA, pharmacies may be required to adjust counter heights, aisle widths, telephone equipment, doorways, and almost any other physical aspect of their operations. The act allows for reasonableness in designing stores without undue hardship on daily operations. The design goal is to have a store that offers equal access to all products and services for all customers (Laskoski, 1992).
The Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) is a federal mandate designed to protect the confidentiality of patient information. HIPPA considerations in the design and layout of a pharmacy are to ensure that disclosure of protected health information is minimized. Pharmacy managers are to make reasonable efforts to protect the privacy of their patients. Some of the efforts made by pharmacy managers include installation of a partition extending the height of the pharmacy counter, redesigned storage areas for prescriptions that are waiting to be picked up by customers, designated staging areas for patients waiting to be served by pharmacy staff, and private patient consultation areas.
Internal and external environmental factors play a major role in the design and layout of a pharmacy. The age, race, sex, and income levels of consumers are important characteristics that should be addressed. Addressing the needs of a predominant ethnic or age group is beneficial in attracting these potential patrons to a pharmacy. For example, elderly people may be more likely to patronize a pharmacy that has a large section of durable medical equipment.
Designing the exterior of a pharmacy is just as important as design and layout of the interior. When designing the exterior of a pharmacy, one must consider legal requirements, local codes or ordinances that govern materials, the number and sizes of windows, external signage, and the number and placement of doorways.
The exterior design of a pharmacy may need to complement other stores in a shopping center. Many shopping centers place restrictions on the exterior designs of their stores. Pharmacies commonly will try to add defining features (e.g., signage and lighting) that allow their stores to be recognized easily.
The placement of entrances and exits to the shopping center is key to the ease of getting to the pharmacy. The traffic patterns and placement of traffic signals on the roads adjacent to the shopping center affect the convenience of shopping in the pharmacy. Pharmacy managers often negotiate with local officials to have traffic signals at or near the entrance and exit of the center.
The traffic pattern of a shopping center will influence the placement of entrances and exits of the pharmacy. Pharmacy managers wish to maximize the number of patrons that find their store once they are in the shopping center. Pharmacies often desire to be located next to a grocery store or other high-traffic stores to attract cross-shoppers.
A pharmacy's layout contains numerous cues, messages, and suggestions that communicate to shoppers. A pharmacy manager's goal is to create a mood that welcomes customer traffic, increases time spent in browsing (yet not wasting time searching for needed items), encourages customers to make more purchases than originally planned, and invites them to return to the pharmacy in the future.
The layout or arrangement of in-store fixtures should be designed to move patrons around the pharmacy to obtain the items they need or desire. Ideally, customers should visit as many areas of the pharmacy as possible to increase the probability of impulse purchases.
Pharmacy layout should capitalize on the strengths of the prescription department and pharmacist because they are what make pharmacies unique from other retail outlets. Pharmacy layout should have the prescription department very prominent and visible to patrons in any part of the store (Fig. 24-1). Ideally, consumers should travel past a variety of merchandise on their way to the prescription department. This explains why many prescription departments are located in the rear of a pharmacy. While this layout is popular with pharmacy managers, it is not always popular with consumers. For example, some elderly patrons may find it difficult to walk through the entire store to get to the prescription counter. They may choose to use the drive-through window or frequent a pharmacy that has the prescription counter in the front of the store. The demographics of the population that shops the pharmacy will be very influential to the design of a pharmacy and prescription counter (Walker, 1996).
Gaedeke and Tootelian (1993) discussed two types of store layouts: grid and free flow. In a grid layout, all the counters and fixtures are at right angles to one another. Merchandise is displayed in straight, parallel lines, encouraging maximum travel time in the aisles and maximum product exposure. The free-flow layout groups merchandise and fixtures into patterns that allow for an unstructured flow of customers. Many of the fixtures are irregularly shaped circles, arches, and triangles. This design is used often in gift and specialty stores, mostly encouraging browsing and impulse buying.
Grid layouts are more common in community pharmacies than free-flow layouts. Aisles are set in straight-line grid arrangements with key departments or service areas located to encourage shoppers to visit the four corners of the store. Departments are arranged to place high-demand items in the rear of the store, promoting traffic past lower-demand and impulse-purchase items. In grid layouts, the prescription department is often located in the back of the store, adjacent to high-demand over-the-counter (OTC) items and other items that may sell better if accompanied by a recommendation from a pharmacist (e.g., durable medical equipment or natural products).
Department placement is done with the intent to entice customers to purchase more than they had intended originally. Some locations in a pharmacy tend to attract more traffic. High-traffic areas are good places to generate additional sales with placement of new product displays or impulse items. In pharmacies, placement of impulse items near or on the prescription counter may increase sales of these items owing to the increased traffic in that area of the store.
In almost any retail business, the risk of theft of merchandise (both by shoppers and by employees) is always present. Pharmacy managers can use store design and layout to minimize losses from theft. High-cost and other items that may be liable to theft generally are placed in open areas where store personnel can observe both the items and shoppers easily. Pharmacies are increasingly using locked cabinets to store items that are liable to theft (e.g., smoking-cessation products and weight-control products). Most states have also enacted laws that require products containing psuedoepherine be kept behind the pharmacy counter despite the fact that it technically has OTC drug status. This has been done to decrease the theft and inappropriate use of psuedoepherine, particularly in the production of methamphetamine. Efforts should be taken not to place high-cost and high-theft items in corners (which are more difficult for personnel to see) or near exits (where it would be easier for shoppers to steal an item leave without being noticed). Many pharmacies use store security personnel, video surveillance equipment, one-way mirrors, and even sensors embedded in products to detect and prevent losses of merchandise.
Merchandising involves the proper placement of goods on pharmacy shelves. The space a pharmacy has for goods to be displayed is limited by the size and design of the store. Pharmacies commonly separate their space into departments or sections that contain major categories of products (e.g., prescription area, cough and cold, headache, and first aid).
Merchandise in a pharmacy tends to flow from one department to the next. This flow is accomplished by placing related departments next to or near each other. Cross-selling is the process of selling across departments to facilitate customers purchasing more items than they may have intended originally. Arranging departments in a logical transition from the front to the back of the store will guide shoppers to areas where they may find additional items to purchase. Cosmetics, hair-care products, and health and beauty aids commonly are located near toiletries and feminine hygiene products because consumers who come to a pharmacy to purchase the former products also tend to need the latter (see Fig. 24-1).
Pharmacy aisles are of various lengths and heights. For the convenience of shoppers, aisles tend not be more than 50 feet in length (Raven, 1984). If an aisle is longer, cross aisles should be provided. Cross aisles are a break in a long run of shelving creating an aisle that allows customers to move easily across the store. Cross aisles provide for smooth traffic flow and increase visible space for item placement.
Many pharmacies use the space at the beginnings and ends of the aisle runs. These spaces often are referred to as end caps. End caps often feature displays of promotional and seasonal items, bulk items, impulse items, and new products designed to gain shoppers' attention (Fig. 24-2).
Aisle heights also vary among pharmacies (Raven, 1984). Some smaller pharmacies use a lower aisle height of 54 in. This allows store personnel to see across the entire pharmacy. Larger pharmacies often use fixtures with heights of 60 to 72 in. Higher shelves provide additional space for merchandise and storage. Higher shelves also help consumers to keep eye contact with products in the aisles. Not allowing visibility across aisles is a tool used by retailers to keep the shopper's eye on the items in that section.
When deciding what items and how many of each item to place in a section or a department, pharmacy managers strive for balance between variety and duplication. This balance will vary by and within categories of merchandise. The two considerations to be addressed in achieving such a balance are an understanding of the customers and an analysis of current market trends. Both these considerations address the placement of merchandise to respond to demographics, the type of customer and his or her needs, or market trends, responding to a new or very popular item.
To assist with proper placement of items on shelves, many pharmacy managers use plan-o-grams. Plan-o-grams are diagrams that show the placement, space, and management of each item in a particular section of shelves. Plan-o-grams may be produced by manufacturers, wholesalers, corporate pharmacy offices, or the pharmacy staff itself. Plan-o-grams should be based on current sales and market information, as well as on the size and physical characteristics of the items themselves. A properly planned and executed plan-o-gram enables pharmacies to maximize sales and profit opportunities for a given section of space.
Plan-o-grams should arrange products to increase their visibility to consumers. Manufacturers strive to make the fronts and tops of their packaging clearly visible to consumers. A product facing is the arrangement of a product one package wide on a shelf. Placement of items on shelves, so that these package facings are visible to consumers, allows for maximum exposure and increases the likelihood of sales. By increasing the facings of a single product from two to four, pharmacies have found that sales of that product will increase by 36 percent (Portner, 1996).
When viewing a section in a pharmacy, the most popular items will be placed at eye level for the majority of shoppers (approximately 60 in high). Items placed very high or very low in a section traditionally will be slower-selling items. Customers in North American pharmacies typically scan from left to right when looking at items on a shelf. Items on the shelf should be set vertically, from top to bottom, allowing the customer's eye to scan the shelf across as he or she goes from top to bottom. Pharmacy managers use this concept to cross-merchandise and add items for impulse purchasing. In addition, most customers are right-handed and will grab the item to the right. Consumers commonly find larger-sized products (which generate higher sales and profit margins) kept to the right of smaller-sized products followed by the private label brand.
Pharmacy managers will place some items in more than one department. Fast-moving, high-profit items can be displayed in various departments throughout the pharmacy using a technique known as cross-merchandising. For example, displaying facial tissues not only with the paper products but also in the cough and cold section will increase impulse sales of these items.
In addition to placing items in designated sections or departments, pharmacy managers commonly use displays throughout a pharmacy to highlight specific products. Displays often are set in an aisle in front of a shelf to showcase new items or those with special pricing. Floor-stand displays are used to place large quantities of an item on display, making the products easily accessible to consumers. Manufacturers often supply these displays and other promotional materials to pharmacies to highlight their products (Fig. 24-3).
Point-of-purchase materials (signage) also are used to highlight items. Header cards, banners, and price signs are all examples of point-of-purchase materials. These sales aids give product information, demonstrate features, reinforce a sale or special price, and have the ability to generate sales. Other methods used to highlight products are shelf extenders. These are small trays that are attached to a shelf and extend out several inches to highlight an item. Shelf talkers are signs that extend outward from the shelving and “speak” to customers about items or services found in the store.
Merchandising the Prescription Department
The prescription department is the one area that distinguishes a pharmacy from other retail stores that sell similar merchandise. The prescription department should be given a position of prominence in the store. This department usually takes up 300 to 600 square feet of space, having 18 to 24 feet across the front of the department. The prescription department is usually identified with prominent signage or decor to make it easily identifiable to customers to see and use (Fig. 24-4).
Consumers typically view the prescription department as a professional area. When they are able to view the interior of the pharmacy, they should see that this department is clean and well organized. Pharmacy personnel need to exhibit a friendly and professional demeanor because individual attention can distinguish one pharmacy from another.
The front of the prescription department traditionally is used to highlight vitamins and herbal remedies, products that commonly require the advice of a pharmacist for proper use (e.g., glucose monitors), or high-priced specialty items that may be at risk for theft if stocked in a less visible section (e.g., smoking-cessation products). The areas where prescriptions are dropped off or picked up are good places to display new products or impulse-purchase items (e.g., new OTC medications, Chap-Stick, or pill reminders). These areas are also natural spots for small displays of new OTC items that previously were prescription items (e.g., Prilosec™ or Claritin™). The pharmacist's recommendation is one way to increase purchases of these items.
Designing prescription departments with the pharmacist–patient relationship in mind is a merchandising technique intended to have an impact on prescription sales, OTC purchases, and purchases of professional services (e.g., patient education programs, screenings, or immunizations). When pharmacies design prescription departments to be open, patrons feel more comfortable approaching the pharmacy staff with questions. Having the prescription department near other health care items makes the pharmacist's recommendation more likely to result in increased sales of these goods and services.
Some prescription departments are built elevated from the rest of the pharmacy, giving the department an appearance of prominence to the customer. Special lighting may also be used to highlight the pharmacy. The use of brighter lighting in and around the department highlights the pharmacy and draws customers to that area of the store.
Pharmacy design should also include a patient waiting area, a patient consultation area, and in some locations a drive-through window. The patient waiting area provides patients with space away from the sales floor to wait comfortably for their prescriptions. As prescriptions are being filled, customers have an opportunity to view health information or learn more about specific goods or services the pharmacy may offer (Fig. 24-5).
The patient consultation center of the prescription department provides an area for patients and the pharmacist to discuss medications and related patient questions. The consultation center may be as small as an 18-in. window built into the prescription counter or as large as a freestanding patient care center. Patient care centers provide pharmacy staff with a place to offer counseling and medical information and provide screenings for various disease states, therapeutic drug monitoring, and immunizations.
Drive-through windows are seen today in many pharmacies. Patients are able to purchase prescriptions and limited OTC items without having to leave their cars. Industry measurements have shown that drive-through windows are viewed by customers as an added convenience, increasing stores sales by as much as 7 percent over stores without this convenience (Laskoski, 1992) (Fig. 24-6).
Pharmacies are continually looking for new and better ideas to differentiate themselves from other retail outlets and to offer additional health care services to their customers. Expanding the front end of the store with health related items and services will help differentiate pharmacies from other general merchandisers. Finding a niche area such as compounding, immunizations, or consultative services will develop a different business model based on the needs of their unique customer base. Merchandising these health focused pharmacies places the niche service prominently in the store.
The expansion of health related products and services will attract patients referred to the pharmacy from physicians, hospitals, and health plans. By developing this health care focused model, the pharmacy will develop a greater relationship with the patient and capture more of their health care dollars.
The addition of in-store medical clinics allows customers to receive medical care that is quick, inexpensive, and convenient (Fig. 24-7). Staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants that have prescribing authority, patients can choose from a posted list of services provided, receive treatment, and be on their way in less time than at a medical clinic or emergency room. Patients who need OTC or prescription items can pick up these items right in the store.
Retail clinics provide greater access to medical care for common problems. Physicians generally are not happy about this trend and would like to see more regulations governing in-store medical clinics. Clinics are not intended to replace primary care, and patients who need a higher level of medical attention need to be referred to doctors in a timely manner.