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  • GARY McCARTNEY

Fresh Thoughts on Pharmacy Design



Customers are starting to take more control over their healthcare. They are demanding more choice in who treats them and where. They are looking for ease, convenience, efficiency, and a pleasant place to be in.

Even pathology labs are starting to turn into retail outlets as customers start getting their blood tests done directly, without the involvement of a GP.

Pharmacies are in an ideal position to deliver this type of direct to customer service. They are already accessible and trusted and are now starting to think outside the box on the services they provide.

There's a case for throwing out everything we know about pharmacy design and starting from scratch. That's for another post.

But if we want to simply evolve the current model, there's still plenty of scope for the design of the pharmacy environment to have a positive effect on customers' health- to be supportive. Here are five things we need to consider.

CUSTOMER: Pharmacists typically work behind the counter at the back of the shop, and they tend to think from the dispensary counter outwards. But that’s not how a customer experiences the store. They’re coming in from the outside. You really need to look at the environment from a customer’s point of view. The customer should have a choice over how they interact with the pharmacist, and we should design customer journeys around that. Every decision should be made with the customer first.

CONVENIENCE: For most customers a visit to the pharmacy is a chore. We need to make their journey as smooth and painless as possible. Clear and obvious journeys around the store are essential.


If we can bring efficiency to a customer’s shopping mission it gives us the right to engage them with pro active ideas about their health. A visit to the pharmacy can become less of a chore and more of an immersive health experience.

CLARITY is essential. We always say that in any retail environment a customer should be able to see where they need to go from the front door. That means clear and legible signage for all categories and sub categories and a clear route through the shop to get there. It should be clear if you can touch something or not. It should be clear where you can engage with the pharmacist or sales team. You should be able to see and react to new ideas and concepts within the environment.

COMFORT: Visual comfort comes first. Customers expect hygienic but not clinical. Clinical is cold, over-lit and uncomfortable.

Getting it right is a delicate balance between materials, detailing and lighting. We need good task lighting for the pharmacists to work and for customers to be able to read all that annoyingly small text on packaging. But we also need to make customers look and feel good, and to use spotlighting to enhance the merchandise and services on offer. Natural materials, simple lines, sound control and greenery are all important in creating a healthy environment.


Now more than ever, comfort also means space. Customers are uncomfortable having to walk up and down narrow aisles to try to find something and even more uncomfortable brushing past other customers to do it. And, yes, we should have comfortable chairs if we expect customers to wait for anything. But ones that are comfortable for everyone.

CONSULTATION: The real value add in a pharmacy is the consultative aspect- and this will only increase as pharmacies take on more and more of the routine work usually done by GPs- health checks, diabetes testing, vaccinations. What this doesn’t mean is under-used consulting rooms that become dumping grounds. Not all consultations require privacy, just a quieter corner to retreat into. By mindful planning we can create these areas to be Clear, Convenient and Comfortable.

As Steve Jobs used to say, Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

There are tons of pharmacies on Pinterest. You can pick any look and feel that you like. How it works is another question. We’re here to help.



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