Gonville Pharmacy

The prescription for financial health

Gonville Pharmacy was once at a crossroads literally and metaphorically. The government’s introduction of three month dispensing regulations had major impact on the Pharmacy’s cash flow, coinciding with its landlord increasing rent. The Pharmacy had to rethink its situation.

The decision was made to move to a more affordable location on the other side of the roundabout, which brought an additional benefit of a carpark for customers. “There has been a pharmacy in Gonville for over 50 years. It has always had a very loyal customer base, and has supported generations of local families. It was crucial for us to stay local as many of our customers do not have cars and rely on walking,” says Barbara Hawkins-Falk, owner and pharmacist.

Barbara has a long connection with the Pharmacy, thirty plus years ago she worked as a pharmacist intern there while completing her training. Several of the Pharmacy’s current customers remember Barbara learning the ropes.

“We know most of our customers by name. Health care is personal and it is really important we look after and have good interactions with ‘our people’. We always have a laugh, and try to make their day brighter.”

Gonville Pharmacy is staffed by a close knit team of five women, the ‘Gonville Girls’, who have worked together for many years.

Due to a doctor shortage people travel all over Wanganui to visit their GP and the Pharmacy has a wide prescription base, dealing with a large number of medical practices. Prescriptions and pharmaceutical products account for a majority of sales although the Pharmacy has retail lines strongly considerate to customers’ purses. “Because we know our customers, we know what is affordable for them. We recently introduced a make-up range that was selected carefully based on price.”

Gonville Pharmacy belongs to buying group called Vantage, a consortium of owner-operator pharmacies without huge turnover. Buying collectively allows members to compete with bigger pharmacies and removes purchase volume requirements.

Eighteen months ago the Pharmacy introduced a Medicines Use Review service to ensure patients are effectively managing their prescriptions. Reviews often result in the recommendation for medicine blister packs. “These are labour intensive to prepare but we know customers feel safer. It is relief to us and their families to know that medication is better managed.”

Warwyck Dewe, partner, Markhams Wanganui has assisted Barbara throughout the past 14 years with GST filing, compliance and end of year accounts. “I’m so flat out looking after people’s health that I rely on Warwyck and the Markhams team to keep me on the straight and narrow, and meet all financial deadlines.”

Warwyck’s support and advice was important when a competitor opened up close by. “This is the first time we have had local competition. It has made some impact but overall our customer base has been loyal. There has however, been some assumption that Gonville Pharmacy closed. Warwyck provides realistic advice and ideas on how to move ahead. We are now marketing hard to promote the fact we haven’t gone anywhere.

“Our name is still our location,” says Barbara.

Published Winter 2011.

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