2017 Front-End Overhaul Tips Archive

September 2017


Time to Start Planning for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October may be a couple of weeks away, but it's time to start planning your Breast Cancer Awareness Month promotions. Here are a few easy ideas:

  • Ask staff to dress in pink one day in October. Post a photo on your social media accounts

  • Provide pink ribbons for staff to wear all month long, and have some on hand at each register to give out to customers.

  • Utilize your store windows to promote awareness and your store's activities.

  • Change the background color of your website homepage and/or Facebook profile and cover photos to pink.

  • Offer to donate a percentage of sales on any pink items purchased in your store (think creatively) to a breast cancer charity. Find reputable breast cancer organizations at charitynavigator.org.

Send me your photos (gabe.trahan@ncpanet.org) promoting Breast Cancer Awareness Month—end-caps, windows, websites, or the entire store! I'd love to see what's working in your pharmacy.

— Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Halloween Sales Worksheet

The most successful merchandisers take the best notes—before, during, AND after the holiday. Start jotting down your sales and inventory hits & misses in my new Halloween Sales Worksheet. Be sure to mark progress after the holiday on Nov. 1, too.

— Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Which Is the Trick and Which Is the Treat?

Are we tricking ourselves by holding onto old seasonal habits? It's time to take a good look at the customer traffic and revenue that Halloween brings into your store—script counts do not go up because you carry candy and costumes. Ask yourself: do costumes and candy make me money? Do these seasonal items fill a need and keep the customers out of your competition's stores? Would candy sales suffer if you didn’t sell costumes? The latest One-Pager Tip from Gabe examines when it may be time to re-evaluate your seasonal section and how you can determine what works best for your store.

— Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

» read more tips

August 2017


Don't Make Them Snicker at the Price of a Snickers

I was recently reviewing Halloween sales flyers from CVS, Rite Aid, and the Dollar Tree. (It's important to know what your competition is doing!) There is no way a community pharmacy could compete with the chains' discounted prices and retain a respectable margin. Don't give up totally on selling Halloween candy, but be prepared to give up on your profit margins when you price candy. Otherwise, you will look overpriced while solidifying the myth that everything at a community pharmacy is expensive.

— Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

How to Play With a Planogram

When deciding the size of a category, you have two options. You can match the size of the available fixture with a matching planogram size, or you can ignore the size of the fixture, choose the planogram that makes sense for meeting your customers’ needs, and boost revenue by playing with your merchandising skills in creating companion and impulse sales. Read the latest One-Pager Tip for tips on repurposing and remerchandising your category sizes to maximize sales.

— Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

It's Time to Get Off the Fidget Spinner Bandwagon

At the recent Atlanta International Gift Show, there was a feeding frenzy at every booth offering fidget spinners. Everyone in the gift industry, at one time or another, has felt the sting of jumping on a craze a bit too late. After careful observation and based on my previous experience, there are too many red flags signaling that fidget spinners are going the way of Friendship Bands. It is too late to jump on the fidget spinners wagon, and if you're on it, get off. Why? Knock-offs can now be easily found. A price war is brewing at the retail and wholesale level. Some schools are already banning them. And the biggest red flag? Fidget spinners are for sale in every concourse in every major airport, mostly in kiosks that could easily be selling socks in the next 24 hours.

Products on kiosks are red flags. At the gift show, an owner of one of the largest gift brokers at the show warned us, "Beware of the hottest item; you can be sure it will be available to everyone soon." If you currently stock fidget spinners in your store, I suggest discounting them as "buy one, get the second at half price" and cancel all reorders. Take it from a guy who was stuck with more 100 E.T. dolls and an embarrassing number of Smurfs. The pendulum for fidget spinners is on the down swing.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Only the Boldest Brush With Cinnamon Flavor (Seriously?)

I did not make that title up. "Only the boldest brush with cinnamon flavor" is a tag line found on the website for a leading toothpaste manufacturer. In a quick search, I discovered 49 different types of toothpastes by one manufacturer. Only the boldest say NO to line extension creep! If you stocked every toothpaste available to mankind, the department would stretch from your front door to the pharmacy bench and creep into the backroom. Yes, new items are important and, in some cases, imperative to keeping your store up-to-date. Line extensions? Not so much. My latest One-Pager Tip tells you how to avoid the dreaded "creep."

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

3 Lessons We Learned at the Atlanta International Gift Show

Last week, a group of 20 front-end managers and buyers joined me for two days of gift searching at the Atlanta International Gift Show. Our posse hiked high and low (and I mean hiked—three buildings plus 50 floors total = 25,000 steps!) for the hottest unique gifts and items for the front end. Here are a few lessons we learned during our experience that you can use at the next trade show you attend:

  • Get comfortable with saying to vendors, "Sorry, I don't want to waste your time, I'm not your customer for this type of product. I have to move on." You just did the sales representative a favor and saved yourself some valuable time to look for that hidden great item lurking at your next stop.

  • The "hottest Item" at a booth may not always be a good fit for your store. Remember, the hottest item is showed to everyone who walks into the booth/show room. That item invites a large field of competition and, more importantly, soon-to-be-available, less expensive imported knock-offs.

  • Items shipped at a later date due to being out-of-stock will incur higher freight costs. When placing an order at a show, it's wise to cancel all out-of-stock items or ask for them to be shipped at no cost. In addition, do not allow any substitutions. A 3-foot gnome holding a rose cannot be substituted with a frog dressed as the Easter Bunny. Yes, there is such a thing and I own one. Don't let this happen to you:

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

July 2017


3 Quick Inventory Tips

  • Position shelving so that you never have to tilt an item to get it off the shelf. Move the shelf above the item one notch; it will take less than five minutes.

  • Product standing on its end or merchandised lengthwise instead of fully faced will always suffer in sales. Check all of your shelves; start in the oral hygiene department with toothpaste.

  • Every item in your store, no matter where it was ordered from, must have a shelf reorder sticker—even if you have to write them by hand. Stores with staff who rely on their memory on what to reorder will always be missing a few top sellers. Make your life easier and keep better track of your inventory by using shelf stickers.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Six Summer Content Ideas for Your Store's Website and Social Media Accounts

  • Tips on preventing and treating sunburns (perhaps you can recommend a good Aloe product in your store)

  • Tips on identifying poison ivy/oak/sumac (include photos) and how to find relief if you come into contact with it

  • Tips on preventing and treating tick bites

    (Great resource: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html)
  • Pet safety tips during fireworks season

  • The benefits of synchronizing medication to improve adherence rates

  • Local news! Improve engagement on your accounts by making local news, happenings, and facts a big part of your content.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

June 2017


End-caps Designed to Create Awareness and Future Sales

The vast majority of end-caps in a pharmacy have to be well-stocked and merchandised to generate impulse and planned sales. The little practiced exception to this rule is an end-cap to boost awareness and create future sales. Read my latest One-Pager Tip to discover how to build an effective awareness end-cap in your store.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Say Bye Bye Bye to Bugs

Summer is here and people will be hitting the Great Outdoors or their own backyards for summer activities. Now is the time to create an end-cap or display of bug and/or tick repellent in a prominent place in your store. Looking for a great product to recommend to your customers that isn't sold at chains? Try Annie Oakley's "Don't Touch Me" natural bug repellent, an eco-friendly spray that is child- and pet-friendly, non-greasy, and clinically shown to be better than DEET.

Order a display of 24 (bugs will be around long enough for you to go through three or four displays). Pull three bottles of the product and merchandise with traditional bug repellents; keep the remaining product in the display. Never throw out the display; keep extra displays for displaying product in multiple locations throughout your store (one idea: cross-merchandise with sun care items). Order by displays so you can replenish and use the free tester bottle and 50 sachet tester sticks. SAMPLING IS KEY: Sample the product and you will sell out quickly. Add a sign to the end-cap or display: "100% Natural Bug Repellent That Leaves You Smelling Great!"

As the Front-End Marketplace June Vendor of the Month, pharmacy owners or front-end staff can order a 24-pack today with the code "NoBugs" to get free shipping and a tester bottle.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Father’s Day Sales Worksheet

The most successful merchandisers take the best notes—before, during, AND after the holiday. Start jotting down your sales and inventory hits & misses in my new Father's Day Sales Worksheet. Be sure to mark progress after the holiday on June 19, too.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

May 2017


Not All End-caps Need to Be Filled With Merchandise

There's no need to stress about coming up with end-cap themes and appropriate product for every end-cap in your store. Substitute a banner for one or two end-caps instead and save your sanity!

Check with your local banner supplier or go online to design and purchase a banner with stand (similar to what you'd see at exhibitor booth). Look for a one-sided printed banner with a stand that is approximately the same height and width of your end-cap (the majority of end-caps are 30 inches wide and 54-60 inches tall; some can run 24 or 36 inches wide—measure yours). Be willing to spend a little more money for a base that works best for your store. Bases that run parallel with the banner are best.

With a banner, you can boost awareness about a variety of the services or products your pharmacy provides, such as compounding, custom-fitting for diabetic shoes, the benefits of compression stockings, flu shots, multi-vitamins, supplements for pets, and delivery service. Make it colorful, use an eye-catching graphic, and keep the message much like a headline: short and to the point.

Talk to the vendor or manufacturer of the product you are planning to promote. Often times they will provide a great graphic and may have co-op dollars, also known as market development funds, to assist in the cost of promoting their product. You won't know until you ask! Consider structuring your ask like this: "How much co-op money do I have access to for the last few years of purchasing from you?" If the vendor replies that they do not have co-op funds, ask for free goods to offset the cost of advertising their product.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Budget-Friendly Remodeling Tips to Make Room for Customers

No brainer: customers covet personal space when perusing store aisles. You don't have to break the bank with a costly renovation to make more room for customers to shop and feel more comfortable in your store. My latest One-Pager Tip offers several budget-friendly ideas to make your store more welcoming for customers. All it takes is a little bit of sweat, measuring, and creativity.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Looking for a Hole in All the Right Places

Do you ever find yourself looking for a hole (space) on the shelf to cut in a new item? Perhaps you turned a few boxes on their ends to save space (thus making it hard for shoppers to read the label). Or maybe you put your items on any shelf that sort of, kind of made sense, just for the sake of putting them somewhere. There is a better way!

First, look for the correct shelf to place your item: one that has the subcategory or a like item that your new item most resembles (e.g., a new brand of allergy relief tablets near Allegra, not near the 8 oz. liquid Robitussin DM). After locating the correct shelf, look for an item on the shelf that is double-faced. Reduce the facing to one and reposition the items on the shelf to place your new item.

No double-faced items? Now it gets a little more complicated. Find the right shelf and locate the nearest item that is double-faced in the 4-foot section. Reduce the item to a single face. Now you will have to remerchandise items on all of the shelves involved. Yes, it's a lot of work, but do it. It's a one-time labor investment that keeps your OTC categories in order. When merchandising any category with or without planograms, make an effort to double-face no less than one item per 4-foot shelf. When resetting vitamins, it is best to double-face at least two items per shelf. As you can see, this will save you much time and patience later. Add a copy of this tip to your policies and procedures handbook and instruct any employees responsible for stocking shelves.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

May End-Cap Ideas

  • Arthritis Month: create an arthritis relief center featuring hot & cold treatments, wraps, heating pads, pain relief, etc.

  • Bumps, Bites & Bruises Relief: add hot & cold packs, cortisone, poison ivy treatments, first aid items, etc. Consider filling the end-cap with private label products.

  • Better Sleep Month: supplements like melatonin, eye masks, herbal teas, therapeutic pillows, calming bath gels, etc.

  • Skin Cancer Awareness Month: sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen in a range of SPFs (position lowest to highest #) and a variety of formulas (waterproof, sensitive skin, etc.). Add lip balms with SPFs

  • Summer Travel Solutions: sun care products, bug repellent, snacks, water bottles/energy drinks, travel-size toiletries, first aid kits, razors, etc.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Mother's Day Sales Worksheet

The most successful merchandisers take the best notes—before, during, AND after the holiday. Start jotting down your sales and inventory hits & misses in my new Mother’s Day Sales Worksheet. Be sure to mark progress after the holiday on May 15, too.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

April 2017


A Quick Way to Free Up Space in Your Front End

Open up your store aisles and remove clutter by eliminating cardboard floor displays and spinner displays, excluding spinners that are holding greeting cards. Move the product that were in these displays to end-caps (create a theme and add a sign). Refresh end-caps on a regular basis (good rule of thumb: approximately every two weeks).

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Easter Sales Worksheet

You know you are supposed to take good notes about your Easter sales this year, but what should you write down? Download my new Easter Sales Worksheet and start writing. The most successful merchandisers take the best notes—before, during, AND after the holiday.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

April End-Cap Ideas

  • Stress Awareness Month: stress relief items such as aromatherapy, candles, stress balls, bath salts, shower gels, teas, massage oils, vitamins, etc.

  • Allergy season: natural and homeopathy allergy relief options (antihistamines, nasal sprays, and decongestants) as well as facial tissues, eye care products, and immune boosters.

  • Foot Health Awareness Month: diabetic foot health headquarters with diabetic socks, foot creams, compression stockings, and samples of therapeutic shoes.

  • Pet First Aid Awareness Month: nutritional supplements, products for wound and coat care, flea and tick prevention, etc.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

March 2017


Spring Cleaning Reminders

Are you sending silent messages about your store based on its appearance? A burnt-out bulb says times are tough; soiled ceiling tiles say no one cares; and dust on the shelf says you've given up. No matter what anyone's income status is, we all appreciate a well-lit store, clutter-free aisles, clean merchandise, and a genuine smile. Set a regular cleaning schedule today, if you haven't already—here are cleaning checklists for the exterior and interior of your store to help you get started.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Start a Premium Vitamin Line With These Basics

Wondering where to start when it comes to offering a premium vitamin/supplement line—one that you will place an "Our Pharmacist Recommends" sign on? Here is a list of the basic items you should carry to get you started. These should fit easily on one 4-foot shelf.

  • Multivitamin

  • Biotin 10,000 mcg

  • Hair and nail supplements

  • B-12 Methylcobalamin liquid or lozenges

  • B-12 gummies

  • B-Complex soft gels (phosphate salt)

  • Vitamin C 500 mg with rose hips

  • Vitamin C 100 liquid drops

  • Vitamin C gummies

  • CoQ10 100 mg and 400 mg

  • Vitamin D3 liquid 10,000 IU

  • Vitamin D3 soft gels

  • Vitamin D3 gummies

  • Vitamin D 400 IU drops for babies

  • Bone support = Calcium w/magnesium

  • Magnesium Glycinate

  • Omega 3

  • Probiotics

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

What Do Holidays Have in Common?

Carrying over holiday product the day after the event can be devastating to your return on investment. Many times the loss of revenue goes unnoticed. It’s even worse if you panic and put holiday product on sale before the holiday event. Big box stores and chains are now making it a practice to discount before the event, and understandably that is tough to compete with. But remember, those types of stores buy product by containers; community pharmacies buy in cases. Buying by containers offers enough of a profit margin to allow for early discounting; buying by cases does not. There is a better way to create holiday sales without going down the discount road, and it starts with being creative. Read the latest One-Pager Tip from Gabe for ideas to maximize sales and minimize holiday revenue losses.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Early March Reminders

  • Walk around your store and ensure there is NO Valentine's Day product still out.

  • Easter candy, baskets, grass, and gifts should be out on shelves by now. Stock reliable candy favorites like Cadbury Eggs, Peeps (pink and yellow), jellybeans, Reese's egg, etc.

  • Boost inventory of allergy relief products—recent warm weather in most parts of the U.S. is increasing pollen and other allergens in the air lately.

  • Stock up on your inventory of batteries to promote for Daylight Saving Time March 12 ("Time to change out the batteries in your smoke detectors!")

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

February 2017


Excellent Customer Service Is a Niche

I recently found myself scrambling around Burlington, Vt. desperately looking for a homeopathy remedy called Coldcalm. I am not aware of any community pharmacy in the area that sells the item, leaving me to Google a store that carries the product. The search came up with Walmart and CVS. After no luck in my detailed search at Walmart, I had to find an employee who could help me. I could not get the attention of the pharmacy staff, so I left assuming there was no homeopathy in the store. The next stop was CVS, and after no luck searching there, I was finally able to speak to a pharmacy staff member. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "Excuse me, do you know if the store carries Coldcalm? It's a homeopathic remedy."

Staff: "Is it for colds?"

Me: "Um, yes..."

Staff: "Then it would be in the cold aisle, and if it isn't there then we don't have it." He walked away before I could tell him that all of their aisles seemed cold.

Community pharmacies are always looking for a niche. Look no further than offering excellent customer service—just be sure yours is truly good. (Another niche? Carrying unusual and hard-to-find products like the ones you can get via frontendmarketplace.com.)

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Valentine's Day Sales Worksheet

You know you are supposed to take good notes about your Valentine's Day sales this year, but what should you write down? Download my new Valentine's Day Sales Worksheet and start writing. The most successful merchandisers take the best notes.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Time to Prepare for Valentine's Day 2018

Are you ready for the 2018 Valentine's Day? It's not too late to start preparing for next year. A Valentine's Day that lands on a Tuesday, such as this year's, has little in common with a Valentine's Day that lands on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday in terms of sales and customer traffic. However, a Valentine's Day that lands on a Tuesday mirrors one that lands on a Wednesday, meaning the 2017 Valentine's Day is a wonderful opportunity to prepare for the 2018 holiday. Start by taking daily detailed notes. The latest tip from Gabe outlines what you should be recording to better inform your buying and merchandising decisions for next year.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Valentine's Day Reminders

Valentine's Day is only two weeks away—prepare your pharmacy now to maximize sales this season.

  • Walk through your entire store and identify non-Valentine's themed items and remerchandise them as Valentine's gifts. Use signage, repositioning, and basic decorations to emphasize these items. Suggestions: therapeutic shoes, fashion canes, premium skin care, photo frames, vitamins, and lift chairs. Anything can look like a Valentine's Day gift with red ribbon and a good sign.

  • Since Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday and not a traditional payday this year, you need to work harder for sales. Post signs throughout the store reminding customers that Valentine's Day is fast approaching.

  • You should have at least one Valentine's Day-themed end-cap up (find ideas in my photo gallery).

  • Assign someone on staff to straighten the greeting card department every day and at least twice a day the few days leading up to Feb. 14. When Valentine's Day cards sell down, rearrange the racks to fit boxed chocolates and candy.

  • Do not discount Valentine's Day candy until Feb. 15—you are only teaching customers to wait for a sale to buy.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

January 2017


5 Easy Tasks You Can Complete Right Now

  • Police the community bulletin board for outdated announcements or fliers. Set a reminder to check it weekly.

  • Hang signs around the store reminding customers about Valentine's Day on Feb. 14.

  • Create a display of hand sanitizers (or travel-size sanitizers) at your registers and pick-up counter.

  • Post a flu shot reminder on your website and social media accounts.

  • Clean all glass, pottery, and shelves in your gift department. Ensure there are no products on the floor.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Your New Year To-Do List

Take some time this week to kick off January and the New Year on the right foot by completing some of these timely tasks:

  • Ask employees to set goals for the year; for example, increasing front-end sales by 10%, creating more customer awareness about your vitamin/supplement offerings, compression stockings, and/or sugar-free selection, or promoting the benefits of vitamin D, CoQ10, sunscreen, healthy bones, etc.

  • Be proactive and offer solutions for overstock, misaligned inventory, and understocks of health care categories, braces, vitamins, greeting cards, and gifts.

  • Make this the year employees ask every customer, "How did you hear about us?" and "Did you find what you are looking for?" Develop a habit of thanking every customer for allowing you to be their health care provider.

  • Add more natural and alternative remedies to the pain, cough & cold, and digestive categories this month.

  • Be aware of an onslaught of new price changes in the New Year. Schedule to have changes completed as soon as possible.

  • Replace verbal, unhelpful reports of "we sell a lot of that" with concrete data from your POS reports on OTC, DME, gift, and card sales.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

Are You in the Gift-Selling Business?

If you are going to sell it, then wrap it, and wrap it well. Make signs: "Free Gift Wrapping!" Don't have the staff? Here are two suggestions: One way is to contact a high school student advisor and tell him or her you need up to four students who could use some extra cash. They need to be pleasant and willing to wrap presents, especially on Christmas Eve. No surprises here! They will be expected to be in the store on December 24. Pay them what you want, but do not put them on payroll! Do not train them to run the register; they are there to wrap. Schedule two shifts, late morning and afternoon, and no more than two to three wrappers on a shift—more than three becomes a party.

The other way is something my old employer City Drug was known to do, and do well. We supplied the wrapping supplies, table, and space for different nonprofit groups, typically chosen from local schools, to come in on the five business days leading into Christmas to wrap gifts and accept donations (no more than three students total). For example, the drama club would come in the first day, the band would send wrappers for the second day, then the cheerleading team, etc. We always seeded their donation jar with a few $1 and $5 bills.

Tip: Make your store's policies well known to the gift wrapping elves; review policies like acceptable language, noise level, cellphone etiquette, and where to leave their purses and/or backpacks. Most importantly, they must stay out of the pharmacy area!

I'm guessing several hundred store owners will read this tip, but only 20 will do it. Twenty owners will sell more gifts than they ever have and will become more involved with their communities. Their stores will become the talk of the town. If you are one of the 20, congratulations! Drop me a note at gabe.trahan@ncpanet.org and let me know how it is going. Happy wrapping.

Gabe Trahan, NCPA Senior Director of Store Operations and Marketing

Front-End Overhaul

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