My mother has recently moved to an assisted living center. For me, this has meant some changes in my help. For one thing, I am more active in getting her medicines.
Recently I commented that I suspect her pharmacy will not be in business in the near future. She asked why I say that since she finds them most helpful.
Why did I say what I did?
My first, and maybe sole, reason was a scan of the age of their customers. I live in the second largest city in the state, one that has been noted for what it is doing in bringing in younger workers. However, I don’t see those younger people in the store no matter what time I am there. I suspect that their average customer is 60+. By itself, that market is okay but I suspect they aren’t drawing new customers of that age range but continue to serve basically their existing customer base.
So how can I make these additional hypotheses about customer growth?
First, we are creatures of habit. If we have a pharmacy we have used for years, we probably aren’t going to change as we age. We actually become more fixed in our ways.
And why aren’t younger people using the pharmacy? They aren’t using technology – no texting, no drive-up, no pay-by-phone, no app, etc. That’s where the competition is.
Also, the store is small so it offers the items you would expect from a pharmacy but don’t go for milk, cereal, foods, tooth paste, jewelry, perfume, etc. And this short list doesn’t even begin to capture what you may find in some of the larger multi-faceted stores.
Another reason is that their hours don’t begin to match the competition. No late evening hours and nothing on Sunday.
All of the things I have mentioned take money and more personnel. Yet survival means change. In retail, this was made apparent again this last Monday when Sears declared bankruptcy. The market place is demanding and right now is demanding something different.
So after saying this, my mom asked about the rural drug store. Is it the same for them? Yes and no is the best answer I can give. Their clients see what others are getting from the bigger stores, but these stores have the advantage of their local connections. And they often are seen as doing what is necessary to help out a customer. Perhaps their prices are not quite as good but price is only one part of why we shop where we do. We more like knowing who we are dealing with and knowing that someone is looking out for us.
Bottom line – Remain aware of what’s happening in all facet of the business and change to meet demands. That’s what customers want. And that’s what you need to do to stay in business.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.