‘We’re constantly being scrutinised by the Chinese consumer’

They’ve phoned pharmacies and even sent relatives to Australia to check the pharmacies from which they source health products are real, physical entities

Chinese consumers are stopping at very little to get hold of Australian goods.

It’s a massive boon for Australian pharmacy business, says Rania Awad, general manager e-commerce for Pharmacy 4 Less and Roy Young Chemist.

The growing discount brand – which plans to open up another six stores before Christmas – was one of an increasing number of pharmacy businesses to perform strongly during the recent Singles Day promotion, a shopping holiday not unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“It’s a completely made-up holiday,” Awad says. “It’s an anti-Valentine’s Day for single people, created by Alibaba a couple of years ago to run heavy promotions, and it’s really caught on.

“It’s a very, very big day in China retail-wise, and it was a big day for us – we participated with both our brands that are present in the Chinese market, Roy Young Chemist and Pharmacy 4 Less and as expected the results are very, very positive – we sold about four or five times our normal volumes.”

Pharmacy 4 Less wasn’t the only brand to clean up during the Singles Day promotion this year: according to the Daily Telegraph, Chemist Warehouse sold $2 million of stock in 13 minutes, while pharmacist Danielle Di Pilla, founder of Goat™, earned more than a million in the 24-hour sale, leveraging her relationship with Chemist Warehouse.

The strength of the Chinese market cannot be underestimated, Awad says. The sheer volume of consumers keen to access Australian-made – and Australian safety regulated – health goods makes entering the market a must for Australian pharmacy brands.

The banner group uses Azoya, a turnkey e-commerce solutions and services provider dedicated to the Chinese market, for its fully-managed e-commerce platform. The platform was launched only in August.

“To be honest, the demand and market found us, as it has in general the Australian health brands,” she says.

“We were trying to meet that demand via various channels through our .au website, until we tested the market and understood its capacity and the opportunity that lies there, and decided to go straight to our consumers in China.

“The history for China with health products has been very bad – they have a huge problem with counterfeiting, there was the issue with the baby formula which caused deaths. There’s a trust factor, and Australian, New Zealand and German products are seen as high-quality products and brands they trust.

“Our consumers in China, in particular, want to make sure their products are in fact coming straight from Australia. They don’t want products from a warehouse in China, they want to order directly from the floor of an Australian pharmacy.

“We’ve had customers ring up to make sure we’re here, we speak English and can answer their questions. We’ve even had some send relatives to make sure we’re really here!

“We’re constantly being scrutinised by the Chinese consumer to make sure they’re getting the product they’re paying for.”

Pharmacy 4 Less still has limits in place on its formula sales, following the run on Australian baby formula by Chinese buyers earlier this year.

“People are still trying to purchase it in bulk,” Awad says. “This is why we figured it would be easier to go direct to the consumer.

“Complementary medicines are the other big area for growth: Blackmores and Swisse have seen amazing spikes in their volume over the last couple of years.

“Next year is all about growing the Pharmacy 4 Less brand across Australia, but it’s also about growth through catering to the Chinese market.”

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