Date: 14 September 2022
A new report has revealed spending at pharmacies across Australia significantly increased during the pandemic, as more people chose to rely on pharmacies for their purchases and health services.
Westpac’s Counting on Community Pharmacies report, in partnership with The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, shows the average spend on retail products and other health services increased by 56 per cent between February 2020 to February 2022, while spending on prescription medicines increased by just 5 per cent across the same period.
Drawing on data from Westpac Group and the Guild, the report identifies some of the key changes in consumer behaviour over the past three years.
Westpac cardholder transaction spend data, and specifically, spend within pharmacies across Australia from July 2019 to February 2022 was analysed, revealing some surprising and positive insights.
Seven key trends were identified from the data and the report explores each of these with further insights offered from Professor Trent Twomey, National President of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, and Kaizaad Mehta, National Head of Health Care and Professional Services at Westpac.
Importantly, these trends provide an indication of the changes community pharmacies are likely to experience in the future.
Whilst the pandemic has brought with it numerous challenges, it has also presented opportunities for expansion of service offerings and new revenue streams for community pharmacies.
“We’re already seeing an expansion in the provision of primary healthcare at community pharmacies, and I think we’re just starting on this journey,” Professor Twomey said.
The report shows the number of transactions between July 2019 and February 2022 increased by 10 per cent, while the change in per basket spend increased by 36 per cent, from $26.30 to $35.80.
Westpac General Manager Business Lending, Shane Howell, said the COVID-19 pandemic turbocharged spending in pharmacies across Australia as consumers ramped-up their investment in healthcare and leant into the skills and expertise of their local pharmacist including community vaccination programs.
“This resulted in a 21 per cent increase in total spending from July 2019 to February 2022, from $92.5 million to $112.3 million,” he said.
“Foot traffic into pharmacies was buoyed by the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, where approximately eight million COVID-19 vaccines were administered by mid-2022.”
The data showed spending at city pharmacies dramatically spiked in March 2020, as the pandemic reached Australia and before employees transitioned to working from home, and then spending quickly shifted to local pharmacies.
“While many city pharmacies were able to quickly pivot to online orders, interestingly overall online purchases decreased by 38 per cent, while instore spending increased by 61 per cent, showing the value people place on face-to-face service,” Mr Howell said.
“Now that workers are flocking back to cities, and customers have forged new purchasing behaviours in supporting local too, the pharmacy industry has proved it plays an incredibly important role in the health of Australians and remains in a strong position.
“Looking forward, pharmacies are increasingly being seen as a critical part of the primary health sector, which is why there is great optimism amongst local pharmacies all around Australia and why we believe the future is healthy.”
Professor Twomey said pharmacies were the only healthcare destination in Australia that didn’t limit their access to people during lockdown, which influenced the purchasing behaviours of customers.
“Emergency departments were turning many people away. Elective surgeries were suspended. Many GPs took to telehealth, while pharmacies did not shut,” he said.
“We saw a lot of people with clinical presentations who ordinarily would have sought advice from either a hospital or a general practitioner. There was a new reliance on community pharmacies during this time."
Contact: The Guild