It has been less than two years since TARGET’s much heralded launch into the Canadian market place. Now with 133 locations across Canada (the majority including pharmacies) and 7 billion dollars blown down the tube, Target is leaving town as quietly as possible. Too bad the press will not leave this one alone.
When I was writing about the (past) artificial pharmacist shortage created by Big Pharmacy Retail a few months ago, I predicted that this might happen, though I too am stunned by the swiftness of it all. There never was a community need for these 133 pharmacies. Canada already has a huge surplus of pharmacies. Every box store, grocery store, merchandiser, and discounter out there has a pharmacy in it. Not to serve the pharmaceutical needs of the patient community, but to legitimize the sale of all the junk OTCs, vitamins, cough syrups, homeopathic products, and other so called DSTM (drug store type merchandise). This is where the big money is for these big retailers. Fair enough: business is business.
But where in all of this do the interests of the pharmacy profession lie? What happens to at least 200 to 250 pharmacists who are now added to the pharmacist surplus already present? Will the pharmacy schools take note and adjust admissions accordingly? Will Immigration policy reflect changes which today address the very worst abuses of pharmacists as professionals largely among IPGs? None of this is likely to happen. There are just too many vested interests in the status, quo be they associations, academia, Big Retail, etc. The real happy guys in all this will be the pharmacy relief companies in their never ending quest to drive pharmacy compensation down to minimum wage levels.
This is another graphic example of where the interests of Big Retail Pharmacy whose business is selling as much “stuff” as possible, no matter what the stuff is, conflicts with the interests of pharmacy as a profession and the interests of the patient community. The two worlds function in two different marketplaces.
All of the sales, marketing, and merchandising these retailers constantly pour out will suggest otherwise. I remember seeing a TARGET billboard in my town of Oakville, Ontario stating something to the tune of: “Think of TARGET as a drug store with a department store inside it”. Good tag line I thought. I often wonder whether I am in a grocery store with a pharmacy inside it, or a pharmacy with a grocery store inside it…especially now that LOBLAW has swallowed up SHOPPERS DRUG MART. Does the question really deserve second thought? Probably not.
If there is a lesson to be learned, here it is this. The interests of Big Retail Pharmacy and the interests of the professional practicing pharmacist are on different planets, and will never co-exist. The interests of retailers is to sell as much stuff as possible, increase market share, double sales per square foot, load up the basket size, cross merchandise, etc. etc. The interest of pharmacists is to improve patient health which in most cases does not involve (or should not) the sale of any product.
The veracity of my statement is that today Big Retailing is in almost total control of the profession to the sad consequence of the practicing pharmacist. TARGET’s easy entry and easy exit, leaving the dead and wounded scattered all around, is a perfect example of this abuse of power.
It is important to know what your position is if you want to do something about it. It is important to face reality and then develop a personal plan to change that reality if it does not suit you. Too long in the past have pharmacists accepted their lots; today’s new graduates are thankfully different and are cutting new paths to personal success. These people are the hope for the future of the profession.
Do not look to your associations for any leadership in the quest to put the profession of pharmacy back into the hands of practicing pharmacists; vested interests are in full control of these entities. Look to yourself and know that your professional future is in your hands and yours alone.