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Owner Operated vs. Mass Merchandiser Pharmacies

Updated on October 19, 2011
Service and customer satisfaction is important
Service and customer satisfaction is important

Pharmacies, what do people want the most, Savings or Service?

I have been paying closer attention over the last several years to a growing problem at least in the United States.   The "mom and pop" pharmacies that we all grew up with, vs the larger Walmart and Target types of pharmacies is what I am talking about.  Many have had to just completely shut down, and I understand it isn't just the pharmacies either.  That is my focus here, as we all need to get medicine in our lives and we all make a choice of where to go.

Mass merchandisers have the buying power that can allow for them to go super low on prices of course, and we all benefit from that.  Times are tough, and even when they aren't tough we all want to spend the least amount of money on the highest quality product that we can.  So now, more than ever we are seeing changes in the way things are done.

I am increasingly discouraged by the store closings that I see from small markets to unique shops of all kinds.  Its really heartbreaking to osbserve.  The reason I am writing this hub however, is the trend and studies are showing some responses that are bound to be encouraging for the smaller pharmacies everywhere.  Don't give up, people are still wanting the service that only a small pharmacy can provide!

A neat pharmacy, or Apocethary Shop
A neat pharmacy, or Apocethary Shop

US Consumers are paying more attention to the details

Whether medicine, health and beauty aides and other drug store products, including home health care products, US consumers are paying attention.  They are closely watching cost of course, with all the uncertainty and growing joblessness.  There is an ongoing battle for customer loyalty no matter who is aware of it, and the studies are showing that service is still king.  This is great news for the independent, owner operated community pharmacies countrywide!  The survey was conducted by J.D. Power and Associates and they conducted a 2010 National Pharmacy Study. 

This telling study included the chain drug stores, grocery stores, and mass merchandisers.  The researchers polled customers about about 5 key factors that make a customer satisfied.  The brick and mortar pharmacies scored very well.  The different areas were prescription ordering, the picking up process, the shopping experience, and the competitive costs, and non pharmacist staff and pharmacists.  More than 12,300 were polled and the results reflected American's growing concerns that they have with the cost of their pharmaceuticals and other health care products.  In general consumers are shouldering more costs for all of these needs, so it makes sense they would especially concerned with the pricing.  That said, however, the report showed that personalized and the above and beyond service you can get from the owner operated pharmacies STILL outweighs the price for the majority of consumers. 

So customer service still still trumps the low cost that you can sometimes find at the mass merchandisers.  This is encouraging news. 

This is good news not only for the small scale pharmacies on the corner that man of us grew up with, it is also good news for big 3 wholesale giants that run the 3 major networks of independents (franchised or otherwise).  They scored top rankings in the poll also. 

Mom and Pop apothecaries have been around a long time!  It would be so sad to see them die now.
Mom and Pop apothecaries have been around a long time! It would be so sad to see them die now.

Consider supporting your local independent pharmacies

Your local independent pharmacies also take our insurances, and I think that so many of us get in a rut that we are just used to going to the mass merchants for our pharmacy needs.  Even if you don't have insurance, why not consider putting the money you are spending, into helping your local community in this way?  There is really a great feeling that comes with going to the local pharmacy, at least that is my opinion! I need to get back to doing just that, as I always defaulted to the larger mass merchants when we have moved to a new area. As I get to know the area however, I want to find some little pharmacy where I can get my prescriptions filled. 

Finally, those that are highly satisfied with their "brick and mortar" pharmacies, were much more likely to say they will definitely return there, as well as spread the news on to others about the pharmacy.  If its a simple choice on our part, why not choose the smaller pharmacy to get our needs met and actually have more interaction with our pharmacists anyway?  All that I have ever gone to, genuinely care about their customers and can be very helpful and also help in a small way to keep our communities stronger. 

Give this video a minute to start, great insight from owners themselves.

First, Second and Third Places, and more

The highest scores went to Good Neighbor Pharmacy which is a 3700 store group of independents that operate under the giant AmerisourceBergen. AmerisourceBergen does merchandising, buying, and supports the stores by distribution and health services. 

Two other independently owned franchises, McKesson Corp.'s Health Mart, and Cardinal Health's Medicine Shoppe come in at second and third places. Walgreen's came in fourth.

Among the mass merchant's, Target scores best, and for Supermarkets, Publix did best.

In the future, I plan to take my business to a really nice little "indie", or owner operated pharmacy in my area.  It is small, and based on all I am learning, I am glad I even have the choice to go there still! 

Your choice matters. Why not get some individualized service for you and your family by considering looking around for a local smaller pharmacy that can equally if not better, serve your needs? It won't hurt the mass merchants, and can really help the mom and pop businesses that have been around for many decades and generations. You may be pleasantly surprised!


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Dearabbysmom, thank you for your comment! I know there are others out there like your husband. I think just the awareness might be helpful. I love our local "mom and pop" pharmacy still, its my #1 choice. The real pharmacists that loved to serve their communities are often losing those opportunities. There is something just wonderful, about finding an older fashioned kind of pharmacy anymore. Its like finding gold!

    • dearabbysmom profile image

      dearabbysmom 6 years ago from Indiana

      I really enjoyed your hub! On a personal note, my husband is a pharmacist, and sadly the small downtown pharmacy where he worked was eventually bought by CVS. People rarely consider how this trend feels to the pharmacists. They go from being fulfilled in providing service to neighbors and friends to being a cog in a machine. The more pharmacies "crank 'em out" the more mistakes customers like Spiritwind will experience. Many of my husband's colleagues admit to feeling worry every day that they have made a mistake.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Spiritwind, so sorry to hear about your experiences with pharmacies! That has to be frustrating. Hopefully that will get better in the future for you. If I were traveling around more, I would probably go with Walgreen's too. Thank you for the comment.

    • Spiritwind profile image

      Spiritwind 7 years ago

      I moved my scripts to walgreens because traveling would make it easier to get my meds. I have not had one month, go buy that something was not right with my refills, either the wrong brand, miscounts, that was the big one, i told them for two weeks i was cheated out of half my thyroid script, now, its a no brainier, just recount the pills you have left and if your long you miscounted on someones script. I had to call corporate to get anything done, or would call for a refill, yes it will be ready, get there long after it was supposed to be done, and they had not even put it on the fill list.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I do too Carolina. Thank you!

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I miss the kind of personal service in the smaller places!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks Dallas. That is observably true, and I hear you. I was just sharing the results of the survey that were very surprising taking into consideration all you said. That was why it is an encouraging thing to the smaller pharmacies that the people that were recently surveyed really did want service over savings. Then, I just threw in my two cents for those that may like those more friendly old fashioned ways where people care about each other and genuinely want to give the best service they can. Its not for everyone though. I totally hear what you are saying too. (By the way, I am not an employee of nor is anyone in my family working in any pharmacy lol) Just true thoughts on my part.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Our behaviors are based upon "benefits." What we perceive as something that benefits us is usually what we choose to do. The convenience of shopping at a "big store," while we are already there and the lower price often times outweighs the benefit of talking to an individual that will discuss politics, the weather and aunt Jill's pet dog. The holistic approach to health is one that is delegated to computers...

      Just is, not good, not bad, just different. The "Walmarts" of the world replace inefficient run businesses... both in terms of "non-elastic prices" and convenience...

      The neighborhood gas station is no longer in existence: replaced by efficient, clean "gas and go" outlets.... where you can also get "convenient" foods...

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pamela, I hear you, and have used Walgreens not that long ago. They are pretty good! The personalized service is great wherever you get it. Thank you for stopping by.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      I like dealing with a smaller establishment also. Walmart is just too much sometimes so I go to Walgreens which isn't a mom and pop, but they are close by and give personalized service very well at this location.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      That is so true Phoenix, just another face among many others, with no clue to your health or anything really. I don't like that they are disappearing, but to those that are holding on, I would love to support them and encourage others to do the same.

    • PhoenixV profile image

      PhoenixV 7 years ago from USA

      Its a shame those older Pharmacies are slowly disappearing. Now you just line up as a face in a crowd at these others, they have no clue who you are or what your health is.