convenience stores could start to come together across the UK

convenience market experience to bear on 700 chemists bought from Co-operative Group as Boots is also tipped to join the fray, reports today’s Independent Retail News.

Pharmacies and convenience stores could start to come together across the UK following the £620m takeover by Bestway of the 700-strong Co-operative Pharmacy chain, which completed last week.

The line between c-stores and pharmacies has already become blurred in other major convenience markets around the world, including Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong. In the USA, Boots’ parent company Walgreens is said to be the number one convenience store for female shoppers.

Bestway said it intended to make the most of its expertise in convenience retailing as it looked to grow the pharmacy business. “This was one of the reasons we felt we were well placed to make the acquisition,” a spokesperson told Independent Retail News.

“Our years of experience in the convenience sector, much of which is community-based just like the Co-operative Pharmacy, has given us a strong basis for operating in this environment, as we have a good understanding of the local customers and their needs.

“We will be looking to expand the range of products currently available in the pharmacy stores, looking specifically at the over-the-counter range, for example. We believe our learnings and successes within the convenience market will aid us in implementing this strategy.”

Bestway’s wholesale division already serves 125,000 independent retailers and caterers around the country and its retail club business is the largest in the UK with more than 4,000 members. Its Best-one symbol group has over 1,000 stores.

Consultant Scott Annan, who runs the Convenience and Drug Retail Leaders Forum for senior UK executives, said Bestway was now well placed to enter high street convenience using the acquired pharmacies.

He said: “I think they will become more convenient and beef up the female-oriented elements – more health and beauty, more feminine care, more female snacking and female beverages. “My forecast is they will take advantage of their heritage and their expertise and bring both together, because it’s been successful in some of the biggest convenience markets in the world. In markets like Japan, the big drugstores are über-convenient; they are targeting females and the big retailers are now opening combined convenience and drug stores.”

Sainsbury’s Local is already testing the waters in the UK, having opened a combined c-store and pharmacy at Guy’s Hospital in south London in September.

Annan also predicted that Boots, which has 2,500 UK stores, could become a leading high-street convenience player, drawing on the expertise of Walgreens.


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