While pharmacy has the largest market share in skincare, there’s more to be done to leverage the category, writes Leanne Philpott
Australia’s skincare market is worth $1.86 billion… and with 26% of total sales, pharmacy gets the lion’s share.
“The skincare category offers pharmacy two very strong areas of opportunity,” says pharmacist Svjetlana Conn from Terry White Chemists.
“People with problem skin need to maintain their skin every day to help minimize any ongoing issues, so community pharmacy can provide customers with the ongoing skincare regime they require for maintenance.
“Secondly, pharmacy can provide adjunctive therapy to the treatments the doctor has prescribed. Prescription lines can cause issues and side effects and if we don’t help ease these, the patient stops using the treatment and compliance drops off. It’s important for us to give adjunctive therapy to help with compliance.
“Skincare isn’t as simple as just rubbing on some cream to help moisturise the skin. Any customer knows how to do that!
“As pharmacists, we need to identify the areas and the things that customers don’t know. For example, it’s actually really important to apply moisturiser a few minutes after getting out of a shower to maximize the hydrating benefits. Adding that appropriate consultation and information that the customer didn’t know is our point of difference.
“Natural and organic skincare is seeing a greater growth than traditional skincare brands. Natural focus brands such as Sukin, Jojoba and Moo Goo are having about 20% growth across the pharmacy group we work with, whereas traditional skincare brands are under 10%,” says Andrew Pattinson General Manager at Instigo.
“Consumers are in alignment with the ‘going green’ concept; they’re looking for less chemicals and more natural oils and botanicals instead.
“The main element that you need in skincare is a core range and then if you’re looking at differentiated ranges, you need to align it with your demographic. It’s a very specialised area but heading into winter make sure you have a solution to offer in the form of skin moisturisers, products in the lip category, and pawpaw ointments, for example.
Pattinson tells The AJP that the pharmacies that are doing better are the ones that are trying to position themselves as ‘distressed skin’ destinations.
“Focus less on mainstream, everyday brands and more on therapeutic skincare. This is a category where there’s more opportunity. Ensure you have your merchandise and marketing story about therapeutic skin and then on the flip side look at the differentiated ranges like the natural and organic ones; but only if that aligns with your customer demographic,” he adds.
Conn agrees, “[Therapeutic skin care] has enormous potential for pharmacy. It should be one of our biggest front-of-shop categories.
“Dermocosmetics is another reasonably new segment to the skincare category in Australia and it’s still very unique to pharmacy only. I haven’t seen it branch out beyond the pharmacy.
“These are good quality, proven skincare products that will offer a point of difference for pharmacy while offering customers effective skincare. They are designed for sensitive skins and offer a therapeutic outcome. For me this segment still falls under the therapeutic skincare category, but it delves into the science of skincare a little bit further.
“Natural and organic skincare is an important category for us. In our store we have six bays dedicated to this segment so it’s a massive category, but it can be a bit tricky. A lot of customers who shop this category are very well educated on it, so we need to know what we’re talking about.
“There’s a difference between what’s natural and organic. It is certified? We need to be really up-to-date and understand these things. We need to know what we have on our shelves so when a customer asks us a question we have the answer.
“The other thing about natural is that it needs to be a category of its own. You can’t have natural products splattered throughout other categories in skincare. If a person wants one natural or organic product, they’re highly likely to want all natural or organic products.
“We need to help customers navigate the category by leaving it on its own. In our store it’s a totally stand-alone category. Nothing else bleeds into it.”
She adds, “As healthcare professionals, it’s the pharmacist’s duty to offer customers the best skincare solution possible. As such, the S3 category shouldn’t be overlooked.
“S3 treatments can give a quick and safe resolution to many skincare conditions, but as with any S3s they always require counseling from a pharmacist to make sure that it’s appropriate and to give direction on the length of treatment.
“The other benefit is that there’s a lot of sub-therapeutic treatments out there, which customers can get from anywhere, be it the supermarket, the corner store, or online. To have a really good therapeutic product that is pharmacist-only creates a connection with the patients.
“You also have that information in their dispensing file, which you can refer back to; so there’s a treatment process available to the patients. It doesn’t feel like we’re just trying something new and different and wasting their time.”
Knowing the customer
Joe Patterson, CEO of BOD Australia—the company that distributes Dr Roebuck’s—says, “There’s been a significant increase in consumers that are looking for products that are both natural and effective. Specifically when the consumer is looking for skincare solutions to address their concerns they want to see results from these products.
“This has given rise to the growth in smaller, premium and niche brands. Consumers are also prepared to pay a slight premium for these brands as they seek to minimise their exposure to chemicals and other nasties in products they consume or apply topically.
“Pharmacy trade is one of the most trusted professions – so it’s a good place to start when you are seeking advice on a range of health products, which includes skincare.
“The best question to ask a customer in the first instance is what their main skin concern is. This will lead immediately to the brands and products that address these issues. Typical concerns might be anti-aging, hydration or sensitivity.
“I always like to ask what the customer’s current skincare regimen entails and how much time they take to look after their skin. This information will help pharmacy staff to offer the best range of products that fit with their customer’s daily routine. You can narrow it down to three products that address their concerns and discuss the benefits and merits of each product to ensure the best solution is provided.
“Offering the customer more than one product ensures the customer feels they have accessed all options and have made a more informed choice in their final decision to purchase.”
She adds, “When it comes to merchandising off-location displays, featuring the best sellers in each brand and focusing on a specific skin concern, work well. They are a great way to offer advice while also allowing the customer to self-select.
“Displays can be refreshed and driven not only by skincare conditions (sensitive skin, anti-aging, dry) but also seasonality. Our skincare needs change with the seasons and often we require a different range of products. The seasons offer an opportunity for the pharmacy to leverage incremental sales in the skincare category and provide customers with solution driven advice.”
Showcase the role of pharmacy
Conn says, “Pharmacists can play a really important role when it comes to skincare. I think we’re under-utilised in so many ways; we have so much more to offer to the community out there.
“We frequently see patients come to us from a GP or specialist consultation and they’ve been given so much information about their treatment or the skin condition they have. They might have been told to moisturise every day and use a soap-free wash but then they come into the pharmacy isles and are looking at this array of options and think what do I choose. If it’s too overwhelming sometimes they’ll walk out with nothing or they’ll pick up something from the supermarket, which is not appropriate.
“Patients need to be referred to the pharmacy to pick up the right moisturiser or soap-free wash. They need to be told about the possible side effects of the medication being prescribed and advised to go to the pharmacy and ask what products will help minimise or ease these side effects if they arise.
“We have such a huge assortment of products available to us that’s it’s much easier for us to determine which one is best, than for the patients to do it on their own.
“As pharmacists, we need to be up-to-date and on the same page as the doctors. For example, historically we used to write ‘apply sparingly’ on topical corticosteroid treatments. The doctors absolutely hate this and it causes confusion for the patient.”
She says ensuring pharmacy staff are well trained in the basics of skincare is also vital in keeping communication consistent, building trust amongst customers and ensuring confident staff.
“All of our team members are educated on the basics. Once we get into the nitty gritty questions we would hand over to the staff member who has been identified as the ‘hero’ of that category. In our store we have two team members who are trained thoroughly in all of the skincare ranges. If there’s a question that one of my team members can’t answer, because it’s a bit beyond their training, they can be confident to hand the person over.
“Not everyone is going to be an expert in everything, but we’ve identified people who can manage certain areas. It’s all done through supplier and product training, as well as the Terry White-Chemmart online training portal.
“If we take on a new range, part of the agreement with the brand is that we are given full training. The brands also hold really good dispensary sampling programs where they can support the dispensary in making that connection from prescription to dermocosmetics, for example.
“There’s a lot of tools available to pharmacists to offer total solutions for our customers. Once the customer is given a product they like the feel of and gives them results, they’ll come back and buy it again. Not only because they’re good, effective products, but because they’re teamed with trusted pharmacist advice.”
Winter skin tips
Maintaining the skin during winter can be challenging with dryness and eczema flare-ups a common concern amongst many people. President of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, associate professor Chris Baker, shares some advice for helping patients manage their skin during the chilly season.
- Eczema and secondary bacterial infections can develop from severely dry, itchy skin so moisturising the skin regularly is vital.
- The best products for locking moisture into the skin and those containing oil, urea or are glycerin-based.
- Moisturising the skin immediately after a warm shower or bath is best as it helps to seal is moisture, optimising treatment.
- Skin that becomes red, inflamed, cracked or is weeping is a sign of eczema or dermatitis. Moisturiser alone might not be sufficient, so a topical steroid cream is recommended.
- Once skin is damaged, unless the cause is addressed it’s a bit like continuing to run on a sprained ankle; it will never heal. Asking questions to identify the underlying cause is vital in providing an appropriate solution.
- Consider occupational impact and the effect on quality of life that damaged skin can have. Some winter skin concerns, such as cracked lips and chilblains, can sound mild but they can be really annoying and leave people feeling very self-conscious.
- Be sure to manage patients’ treatment expectations. Some ‘minor’ skin ailments, like winter itch for example, can take a long time to respond to treatment. Discussing treatment time and adherence can help improve compliance and treatment outcome.