Pharmacy joins the credit revolution

20March 1971: the Pharmacy Guild plans to launch its own credit card, while the government toughens restrictions on pharma ads

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia announced in March 1971 that it was set to broaden its area of activity into the rapidly expanding credit card business.

By the end of the year, the Guild said it planned to have a “firmly-established, coast-to-coast credit card network which will duplicate as an accumulative customer record of tax-deductible purchases”.

Mr AA Russell, Chairman of the Guild Finance and Credit Company, told AJP the total establishment
cost of the credit card scheme would be about $300,000.

Accredited Guild chemists would pay $60 for an Addressograph-Multigraph data imprinter (to transfer customer credit card information on to sales slips for computerisation), as well as a $25 annual charge (to cover advertising, the credit cards themselves, etc.), and a 7.5% service fee on each customer purchase.

“This has enormous possibilities for Guild chemists,” Mr Russell said. “There are already more than 100 different kinds of credit cards in Australia, and it is clear that unless the Guild does something like this, its members could well be left behind as retailers.

“Major emporiums have been operating the system for many years with marked benefits, often to the detriment of pharmacy,” he said.

Mr. Russell said a Guild member would need to enter into a formal agreement with the Finance and
Credit Company.

Then, with the data imprinter installed, they could distribute application forms to customers known to be “of good standing”.

The customer hands over the credit card, which the sales person places in the data imprinter. A pull of a lever, and the details of the customer and the particular pharmacy are printed onto the computer form, the AJP article explained.

A top copy is given to the customer, and, periodically a carbon of it is sent to the Guild Finance and Credit Company for computer processing, with the pharmacy to receive its payment monthly.

Meanwhile, pharmacies were dealing with the aftermath of Kodak’s February announcement that it was abandoning retail price maintenance, leaving it to individual dealers to determine their own prices for Kodak goods.

“This is a major reversal of trading policy by a company which has almost become synonymous with retail pharmacy in Australia,” the AJP reported.

The step came after a period of greatly increased competition in the photographics market, and AJP said it was seen as a bid to improve Kodak’s sales in areas where they have been adversely affected.

The Guild “cautiously accepted the Kodak decision”, and urged its members not to use it as an opportunity to start or enter a price-cutting “war”.

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