Pharmacy U

Pharmasave’s Brenda O’Leary develops site-specific strategies


In a business environment of falling revenues, pharmacist Brenda O’Leary believes pharmacies must focus on meeting the specific needs of customers, whether they’re compounds for high-performance athletes, vitamins and NHPs, or injections, medication reviews and assessments.

By Talbot Boggs

O’Leary owns and co-owns a small suite of three very distinct pharmacies around the greater Vancouver region.

Pharmasave Crest, Burnaby

Just over a year ago she invested about $200,000 to renovate her Pharmasave Crest store in Burnaby to expand its scope of practice. By her own admission, the store was tired and dated. It badly needed an upgrade to the modern Pharmasave look as well as the addition of facilities that would allow her to offer an expanded range of products and services to create new revenue sources.

O’Leary started by expanding the dispensary by about 250 sq. ft. She added a non-sterile compounding area where her trained staff can produce a wide range of hormone, veterinary and other compounds for patients.

She added one new private counselling room, which now is well used by her and her staff for conducting medication reviews and assessments, counselling patients on men’s and women’s health issues, nutrition and vitamins, and for injections.

O’Leary has brought in a specialist in men’s health, and she is extremely busy giving vaccinations and injections to individual customers, for local corporations and nearby seniors’ facilities.

Besides improvements to the dispensary O’Leary also more than doubled the size and scope of her skin care and cosmetics sections. All the changes have enabled her to offset revenue losses and expand her trading area in Burnaby and beyond to Abbotsford some 60 kilometres away.

“The store really needed a facelift, but the changes also were really needed to offset the reduction in revenues that pharmacies are experiencing because of changes in the government payment structures and lower generic drug prices,” says O’Leary. “Since the renovations, our dispensary business is up by at least 10 per cent, but most of that increase has been the result of compounding, injections and counselling, particularly for men, rather than from traditional drug dispensing.”

Pharmasave Columbia Square, New Westminster

In 2010, O’Leary spent about $400,000 to build from scratch the 5,500 sq. ft. Pharmasave Columbia Square store in New Westminster, which she co-owns with a partner.

The Columbia Square store features an up-to-date compounding lab, private consultation room and a large natural health section, and O’Leary plans to add injection and specialized diet and nutrition counselling to the list of specialized services offered at the location.

Pharmasave at Fortius Sport & Health, Burnaby

More recently she invested about $250,000 in a new, small 1,600 sq. ft. store in the Fortius Sports and Health complex, also in Burnaby. The Pharmasave at Fortius Sport & Health store, which opened in May, specializes in high-quality vitamins and minerals and non-hormone compounds for elite professional and amateur athletes.

“We’ve got Olympic hopefuls and members of Canada’s national Olympic teams, players from the Vancouver Whitecaps and lots of high-performance amateur athletes who come to us for specialized muscle rubs, joints creams and other compounds,” says O’Leary. “Because many of our customers are professionals, we have to be absolutely sure there is no chance of any hormone contamination in the compounds. This facility is totally focused on a specific target market. It’s something these patients can’t find anywhere else.”

O’Leary’s approach to offer customer-targeted products and services is paying off, not only in sales and customer response, but also in employee satisfaction. “In today’s environment you’ve got to keep pushing to where you want to go, continue to improve patient interaction and outcomes, and find new ways to keep your staff motivated to improve and succeed.”