Community Pharmacy

Team effort keeps independent pharmacy moving from strength to strength

Located in a suburb of West Dublin, Roselawn Sheridan’s Pharmacy is a five-year-old independent store that is punching above its weight.

Des Sheridan is the proprietor and Superintendent Pharmacist. “When I started the business the idea I had for it was to provide a personal style pharmacy service to customers. Whilst our competitors here in the shopping centre have a fantastic product range, we identified a definite gap in the market for a more independent pharmacy and things have been going really well for us.

“People nowadays are much more focused on their health and well-being and are looking for products that promote prevention rather than cure, and I would have always been keen to expand our offering in terms of vitamins and health food products. We introduced a range in the pharmacy and when we saw how popular that was with our customers we expanded on it, and when this unit became available I was in a position to be able to acquire it and open the health food store just a few doors down from the pharmacy. It has been a very successful expansion.”

Community Pharmacy

Originally from Ballyjamesduff in Cavan, Sheridan tells Irish Pharmacy News that there is a great community spirit in Roselawn. “We run a charity event every year and the people around here are very generous and are happy to give when they are informed about the particular charity you are fundraising for. It is an opportunity for us to give back, while also maintaining our visibility in the community. I have a fantastic team here and over the years we have developed a really good mix and we go on team building days and often socialise together. None of this would be possible without the team. I like to bring people on board who have something special to offer.”

Pharmacist and proprietor Des Sheridan with pharmacy manager Jessica Melia, outside the health food store

Jessica Melia is the manager in Sheridan’s Pharmacy. “Des saw potential in me in the beginning and when he gave me the opportunity to manage the store I had some suggestions on how I felt things could be improved. I went into the local competitor store as a mystery shopper and I asked for an OTC product to see what their customer engagement was like: were they link selling? Were they upselling? Were they giving additional advice? I discovered that if we concentrated on providing this type of service to our customers that it would bring us opportunities and because we were trending at a certain amount every month I knew we could perform better.

“We educated the staff on the front counter and also ran incentive schemes to encourage them to use the information they had learned so that they could give the customers that little bit extra. I suggested turning the orientation of the shop floor around and Des had faith in me and implemented this initiative.

“Every department was missing top sellers, so instead of carrying a huge range of plasters, we now just have two of the top brands, which gave us more room to stock, for example, two different types of antiseptic, rather than having no antiseptic at all. We are right beside a dentist, an opticians and a doctor’s surgery, so we approached them and asked which specialist OTC products they would be likely to recommend to their patients and we endeavour to always have these in stock. We also merchandised according to the planograms and have seen significant growth, not just year on year, but also month to month.”

Melia also knows that community pharmacy is about more than the bottom line. “People come into the pharmacy to get advice and to find products that will make them feel better. We want our community to know that we care about whatever the problem is. You need a certain amount of humanity, a certain amount of feeling, understanding and empathy to be in this type of work and the OTC staff are the frontline so it is important to be able to read the customers’ needs and to help them as much as we can.

“This is what has actually contributed most to the growth of this business: people around here know now that we are qualified, highly trained and that we are eager to help, no matter what their query is, from mental health, to skincare and cosmetics customers know that they can come to us for anything. We cater to that and listen to their needs. Des is really passionate about this aspect of the service and is always open to hearing new ideas and trying new things to benefit the business and the customers.”

Dispensary Challenges

Chris Connolly is the Supervising Pharmacist in Sheridan’s. “I’d locumed here for a few days and even though I wasn’t exactly looking for full time work, when the position came up and Des offered it to me I took it because I liked the staff and I liked the shop. There are three full time pharmacists now in the store so between us we have it mostly covered.”

Connolly and the other regular pharmacists, Des Sheridan and Mathew Campbell, look after the dispensary ordering and Campbell tells IPN about the benefits, and drawbacks, associated with being part of a buying group.

“We don’t have a lot of space here so from our point of view it is useful to be able to buy things in ones and twos, rather than having to buy in bulk, because you still receive the same discount. The only trouble with that is, there are a number of different generics companies and the buying group could change who they purchase stock from on a weekly basis. The different brands can therefore change and this sometimes causes issues when you are supplying medication to the patient because when it comes to their medication, many people don’t like change.

“It is hard enough getting them to switch from a brand to a generic, but then when the generic keeps changing, they might think it is another new medication so this is a challenge we have to try to overcome by giving patients reassurance. The buying group will always send you the cheapest product but if you choose something that is more expensive it can be difficult to work out how much you are being charged, and you often won’t know that until you get your invoice.

“That is why it is sometimes easier to stick with what they send. By and large though, people are coming around to the idea that the generic is equally effective so once you take the time to explain to them that nothing has changed they are usually very happy to follow your recommendation. There is always something to brush up on and keep up to speed with in pharmacy and I enjoy the challenge.”

High Standard

Mathew Campbell has been a qualified pharmacist for two years. “It has been a big change and I have learned a lot. I did a year in the North working for a group and now working here I have found that there is a lot more responsibility and you have more opportunities to change things around instead of just accuracy checking. I like working in community because you get to chat to people and that speeds your day up. Des is a great employer, he sets a high standard and is not afraid to invest in his staff. The OTC staff regularly go on courses and that makes our job easier because if they are able to talk to customers about, for example, iron deficiency, it frees us up and allows us to look after our responsibilities in the dispensary.”

Manager Jessica Melia tells IPN that identifying opportunities and building on them is what has brought so much success to the company. “We were in a position that there was room for growth and now for everyone to be able to witness the expansion and the constant evolution, it really gives the whole team a sense of pride that due to their hard work and customer service, Des was able to open a second unit. We have all worked so well together and it wasn’t just down to one person. I am very proud of what we have all been able to achieve together and this is what I love about my job: being there to see first-hand the fruit of your efforts. That it what makes it all worth it.”

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