The store is split roughly 50-50 between health and wellness and beauty, reflecting Priceline’s holistic approach to growth going forward.
The retailer, whose parent company, API, was recently bought by Wesfarmers, is in the process of putting pharmacies in the roughly 100 beauty-only Priceline stores that are currently in its network.
But it’s not just about putting people in white coats in stores. The health and wellness space is evolving rapidly post-Covid, and that’s where the concept store comes in.
“We had to rethink the way a pharmacy should be,” Vidler said. “We’ve done some really innovative stuff.”
Robotic dispensary, advice pods and more
“The biggest thing in this store that every customer can’t help but notice is that there’s something different going on with the dispensary,” Vidler said.
Rather than being hidden away, the dispensary is on full display behind a glass wall. It is manned by qualified technicians, while a robot handles routine dispensing.
This leaves pharmacists free to focus on patient care at the store’s new ‘advice pods’, which are designed to improve accessibility and foster closer connections with patients.
“I have an old concern that if you give [pharmacists] a counter, they like to hide behind it. We’ve been very forthright about asking them to step out from behind the counter, and the good ones do,” Vidler said.
“But of course, it’s still very tempting for human beings to stand behind a counter if you give them a counter, so we removed the counter.”
Beyond the dispensary, there are two private consulting rooms where pharmacists can perform a range of additional health services, such as free hearing checks and four-minute non-fasting blood monitoring for diabetes and lipid panel checks.
“There’s more coming,” Vidler said, pointing to sleep wellness as one example.
“We’ve got a whole team dedicated to working on what’s next in that space. We just want to make sure we’ve got the room to do it when they come up with good ideas.”
The range of health and wellness products has also changed following a thorough analysis. One of the new additions is Be Fit Food, a brand of ready-made meals to assist with weight loss, which is available in an in-store freezer.
“I think pharmacy has a really big role to play in helping people achieve their health ambitions,” Vidler said.
New brands and makeover stations
There are new brands in the beauty section, too. A full range of Clinique and Estee Lauder makeup is available in the Camberwell store, and there are vanities where customers can get mini manicures and makeovers to try out products before buying them.
The shelving has also been updated to look cleaner and more uniform, making the store seem less like a traditional pharmacy and more like a specialty beauty retailer.
“It’s simply about modern fixtures,” Vidler said. “We’ve tried to design the store with the customer in mind to make their shopping journey easier, and the result of that is you can see yourself shopping here.”
But while the Camberwell store might have the look of a specialty beauty retailer, Vidler believes it provides a more welcoming environment for customers at all stages of life, from teenagers through to seniors.
“My wife is in her mid-50s, and our daughters are in their 20s. When she goes into some specialty beauty stores, she gets ignored and they get served. She hates that. That will never happen in a Priceline,” he said.
“We’ve built a store where people can feel comfortable shopping, rather than some of those other brands that can be a bit intimidating.”
Priceline has installed Aura Vision in the store to track customers’ movements and help it understand which parts of the store are working, and which parts need some tweaking.
“As we improve our planograms and our ranging, as we improve the technology around things like self-service checkouts and click-and-collect, those elements will be rolled out [to other stores],” Vidler said.
However, the robotic dispensary is not expected to be rolled out to other pharmacies.
“To do the dispensary design in every store requires major refurbishment, but the service model can be replicated, and we can learn from it and train pharmacists in other stores how to manage their workflow whilst still standing on the shop floor,” he said.
As health and wellness continue to take on greater prominence in people’s everyday lives, Vidler sees a lot of room to innovate and improve the pharmacy retail experience.
“Customers have an expectation that all the retailers they choose to shop with will give them a modern experience as well as great service,” he said.
“We can do great service better than anyone, and we are absolutely trying to improve the digital and in-store experience for our customers.”