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Westport Village Pharmacy’s Tracey Phillips learns how to build her business

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For Westport Village Pharmacy, the summer has been an opportunity to focus on our core business.

 

by Tracey Phillips, pharmacist-owner, Westport Village Pharmacy, Westport, Ontario

Westport is a small community: only 680 people live here year-round. In the summer, this number burgeons as cottagers, tourists and other visitors descend. The energy and activity level swell, and business thrives. Many local businesses, understandably, concentrate on building a booming summer trade. As do I, but I know my sustainability will depend on a strong local business relevant to residents. These are the people who will shop here 12 months of the year.

My focus this year was on growing the business from January to April when the clientele is year-round residents. Early in 2015, we launched a weight loss clinic [partnering with Ideal Protein] that emphasizes healthy eating, balanced lifestyle, and ongoing education and coaching. No one else in the area carries the products for this program, so this was a good business decision for us as well as a good clinical one. I even lost 23 pounds!

This was only one initiative. An unaddressed direct mail piece also went to all Westport residents and those in surrounding communities. We wanted to make sure people were aware we had a robust front shop. While we had previously enhanced specific retail sections, such as cosmetics, we had not advertised this. Our mailer included a spend-and-get discount coupon. The result: business increased 30 per cent during the first four months of 2015.

It wasn’t just the clinics and the promotion that combined to increase business. Personal outreach was equally important in our continued growth. We worked hard to build further on our relationships with existing customers and local doctors. We are getting more and more referrals, and I believe it is because we go above and beyond for customers.

The pace in our pharmacy is more laid back, and that affords us the opportunity to spend more time with patients. We can focus on their specific needs. For example, we will provide information on a health condition or help them with special forms. They are so grateful, and they always ask what they can do to thank us. We say, “Tell your friends.” And they do.

We’re also out in the community. You’ll often find me, for example, at the local bingo hall. In a predominantly senior community, this allows me to meet numerous residents in an informal and friendly atmosphere. It helps to bring a human face to our pharmacy. We were also one of five Patron level sponsors at MUSICwestport, where we gave out free I.D.A. water at our stage.

It’s equally important for us to help the local doctors help their patients. I recently attended the Drug Trading Group’s buying show where I picked up special arthritis gloves one physician had been looking for. She dropped in to buy some for herself and her staff and now has local access to them for her patients. The town’s chiropractor brings in a podiatrist a couple of times a week, and she was excited to see our new, expanded foot care centre.

We also purchased fun and eclectic items: fashion compression hose and funky incontinence pads. We gave a pair of the compression hose to the waitresses at the local pub to show off. Everyone goes there, so this was great marketing.

While we’ve reached out actively and strategically to year-round customers in our core business area, perhaps the most wonderful thing about the last long, cold winter was the support I received simply for being part of the town. I split my time between Westport and Toronto, and my husband bought me a snow blower for when I was in Westport alone in the midst of a squall. I have never used it. Before I could begin to dig out from under, a neighbour shoveled the yard, the son of a customer dropped by to sweep my walk, or a local resident with a plow on his truck cleared my driveway. I’d always arrive from Toronto to a perfectly clear drive.

This is life in Westport.