Sharp thinking and superb customer service are just two of the qualities required to take on the chain pharmacies that have dominated the drugstore market since the 1980s.
Those tactics are exactly what Jack and John Pavis, owners of Newhard Pharmacy in Northampton, have used for 44 years as independents, and to compete against polished chain stores that have popped up in every small town and large city.
The same qualities also have earned them a national honor: Newhard Pharmacy is one of four finalists for the Good Neighbor Pharmacy award, to be presented at GNP’s ThoughtSpot Conference from July 24-27 in Las Vegas.
A concept of GNP – a U.S. retailers’ network of more than 3,400 independently owned and operated pharmacies – the award recognizes “a local community leader who uses best practices to deliver exceptional patient care, innovative marketing and branding and successful business operations that help deliver a better bottom line.”
Newhard’s fits the description, with staff that “looks at everything” to find better ways to serve customers and to stay one step ahead of the chains.
“With mandatory mail order and sweeping insurance/Medicare changes, we are always trying to find ways to keep people coming back,” said John Pavis, who acknowledged his solution has been to diversify. “We wouldn’t be in business if we hadn’t,” he said.
One example has been to initiate long-term care service, where Newhard’s own trucks and drivers deliver to residents at about 60 Lehigh Valley assisted-living facilities. While the service doesn’t make money, it builds customer rapport and loyalty.
“We package the medications in blister cards, with pills separated for each day of the month. It does away with all those bottles,” he said. “We even deliver lottery tickets. …
“We find out what people need, then we find out how to provide it. Even if it means extra training and extra marketing – we try to do it right.”
This kind of catering has endeared Newhard’s even more in Northampton, the location of the store since the transfer of ownership from Aaron Newhard in 1969, and to Coplay, Catasauqua and Whitehall, where many customers originate. People of these communities like to patronize Newhard’s simply because the staff behaves “like good neighbors.”
Ed Holohan has been a customer at Newhard’s for more than 20 years. He started going there for his medication after migraines surfaced from a car accident.
He said he likes the fact that the employees are kind, they listen to their customers and “they know what they’re talking about.”
“The people are nice, they make sure you understand what you need to know about your prescription,” Holohan said. “And they tell you to call them. You just don’t see that in today’s world.”
John Pavis said that marketing and branding have been essential in making the community aware of the pharmacy’s capabilities, and he gives GNP credit for keeping Newhard’s in the public eye.
“Being a Good Neighbor Pharmacy partner gives our store an identity. This is reinforced by carrying GNP’s own brand of products,” Pavis said. The organization also helps them with remodeling, TV and radio commercials and print advertising, he said.
A recent area of diversification and marketing is compounding: creating a pharmaceutical product suitable to a specific patient’s needs. Examples might be to change a solid pill to a liquid or to avoid a nonessential ingredient to which a patient may be allergic. Compounding also can be done to add flavor or change the texture to make a medication more palatable.
“We do compounding for veterinarians as well,” Pavis said. “Animals don’t like to take pills, so we develop medications that can be rubbed behind their ears.”
It’s one more way Newhard’s has found to fit itself into a niche, and potentially win a new set of customers.
“There are a lot fewer pharmacies than there used to be,” Pavis said. “You have to take risks, and you have to know what to get into and when.”