Panic surge sees trading spike 450%


empty shelves

New data has revealed the “dramatic” surge in pharmacy spending immediately following WA’s lockdown announcement, as the Guild negotiates on an emergency stockpile

A Bankwest Spend Trends analysis of business turnover activity when Western Australia went into lockdown has shown that pharmacy spending surged 450% in one hour alone.

The data dug into an hour-by-hour breakdown of turnover in key sectors – including pharmacies, supermarkets and liquor stores – and compared them with the previous week’s trading.

Bankwest’s data showed regular and expected trading levels for all sectors analysed until about midday on Sunday, January 31, when news began emerging of a pending “emergency press conference” from the WA Government.

The anticipation of the announcements, without the announcement itself, was enough to lead to spikes in trading from 12pm to 1pm across supermarkets (12%), and pharmacies (40%), said BankWest.

The Government announced the lockdown at 1pm, after which pharmacy saw what BankWest described as a “dramatic surge”.

Between 1pm and 2pm, pharmacies saw trading levels spike 450% compared to regular trading levels, and ending the day more than double an average Sunday (108%).

Meanwhile supermarkets saw an increase of 176% from 1pm to 2pm, and ended the day 47% above normal trading.

On Monday, 1 February 2021 – the first day of the five-day lockdown – pharmacies did not experience the same surge as other sectors, but still closed that day at more than double regular levels (127%).

Meanwhile spending at liquor and beer stores surged after midday on Day One (Monday), hitting a 630% increase on normal levels between 1-2pm, peaking between 2-3pm at 743%, and ending the day up almost 200%.

Pharmacy Guild WA branch director Matthew Tweedie told the AJP that the BankWest data shows what WA pharmacies already knew: that immediately after the announcement, trading went “beserk”.

“People were reporting a massive run on stock and supplies: masks, medication, OTC… shelves being drained and it was just like the supermarkets all over again,” he said.

“Within a day, it was reported that business had dropped away to below or normal. It was a surge, a panic surge, and it took an amazing amount of stock off the shelves for a period of between a day and half a day.

“And then it went off the cliff again, because people locked down. And that’s meant that pharmacy has once again had to come to the fore, and ramp up home delivery, which people still don’t realise is free of charge – and it’s the only way of getting medicines to people in lockdown who aren’t coming out, or who are too frightened to come out.”

Perth is only now beginning to see people return to its streets and its pharmacies, he said.

Mr Tweedie told the AJP that the Pharmacy Guild is now working with the Western Australian Government to “ensure we have access to an emergency supply of medicines in the future”.

“We’re the last in the supply chain, and we simply can’t expose ourselves to that level of risk any more,” he said. “We have to do something, and it’s got to be done in the next couple of months.

“What that looks like, we can’t say. But they’ve agreed that there needs to be a community-based stockpile of commonly-used medicines: antidepressants, Panadol, OTC stuff, but really focused on the life-saving medicines, and bronchodilators are an obvious target.”

Pharmacy had again displayed its agility during the lockdown by working with the state Government to supply more than 16,000 free masks to the community, he said.

“That doesn’t count the number of free supplies pharmacies themselves gave,” Mr Tweedie said.

“These masks were provided to people who might not be otherwise able to get one, as a community service deliberately targeting those who were unable to find the means to buy a mask.

“It was a sudden, quick initiative to deal with the fact that a bunch of people just couldn’t get one. But those stocks have been used.”

He said that the Guild, Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Health Roger Cook were “very well aware” of what pharmacies had been doing in this latest lockdown period, and congratulated them on meeting the challenge once again.

“They opened their businesses up when they wouldn’t ordinarily  be open, and provided services to the public – just like they did in the last lockdown, to keep medicine supplies going.”

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