Simple Things Rural Pharmacies Cannot Take For Granted

Considering a tree change? There are so many positives to owning a pharmacy regionally and rurally – but as always, there are plenty of challenges that comes with setting up shop outside city limits.

One positive about pharmacy is income isn’t necessarily affected by location, and generally things come out in the wash to balance the books at the end of the day. One thing to keep in mind when shopping around for your tree change, is there is a difference between regional, rural and remote areas.

Regional centres can still be sizeable cities, with good resources and access to healthcare. The further out of you go, the more you’re treading on rural territory – the towns get smaller, the population shrinks and the challenges grow. Heading towards the remote end of the spectrum, you’re looking at life that couldn’t be more different to that in the city; limited phone service and internet is just the start. Add in dirt roads, vast seasonal dependencies and minute communities and you’ve got more than just a tree change on your hands.

We delve into the pros and cons of dispensing regionally and rurally, and the simple things you definitely can’t take for granted when taking on a business in the bush.

 

Positives

The reverse brain drain

Thanks to COVID-19, many businesses are incorporating flexible working arrangements – from full time working from anywhere (WFA), to part time office/part time digital nomad. This change in business models across the country means decentralisation is high on the cards for many professionals, no longer bound by geography in order to enjoy career advancement. Many are packing up for cheaper real estate and looser lifestyle options offered by country areas, prompting a regional revitalisation. This is an opportunity for pharmacy owners to look to areas with growth on the cards – which inevitably mean higher incomes for local businesses, like pharmacies.

Less competition

This is a real boon for pharmacists, particularly those in one pharmacy towns. Here, the pharmacy is often the heart and soul of a community’s healthcare model. Even in centres with multiple pharmacies, the competition packs a lot less heat than those in the city – especially as country customers tend to be loyal to a particular pharmacy and pharmacist, and will go out of their way to maintain their patronage.

Lifestyle

Fancy living a little more in the slow lane? You’ve come to the right place. Think less traffic, easier parking, far smaller commutes (more five minutes’ walk than 50-minutes on the train) ease of getting out into nature, fewer trading hours, smaller schools and the chance to own a house with a backyard. While there’s no denying that country areas offer less when it comes to entertainment and dining options like the city, many regional areas are booming with boutique eateries and offerings, especially with the rise of the remote worker and the ability to work from anywhere.

Community focus

A country pharmacy is the nucleus of its town, and in some cases, the only local healthcare provider. This means there’s ample opportunity to build strong community relations, from knowing customers intimately, to taking extended families from the cradle to the grave. Unless you’re drawn to the anonymity of the city, this can be a chance to integrate into a community and feel part of something bigger than yourself, purpose driven and meaningful.

Cheaper rent

This is not just for the pharmacy store itself, but also domestic real estate. Fancy living in a four bedroom house with a big backyard, in walking distance to shops and schools? You’ll be paying a fraction of the cost compared to the city, which is comparable to a one or two bedroom inner city apartment. Generally, the further away from big centres you go, the lower the cost of rent – which helps keep your pharmacy’s overheads down and profitability up.

 

Challenges

Here’s the crunch. Owning and operating a regional or rural pharmacy is not for everyone. Here are some things you can’t take for granted when running your business in the bush.

Regular, reliable deliveries

The further away you get from the bigger cities, the more tenuous the supply chain grows. Issues in the supply chain are far more common for those operating in the country, from access to stock to refrigerated goods not being refrigerated properly in transit. These are not insurmountable challenges for the well organised, but are things to keep in mind when looking for business ownership opportunities outside the big smoke.

Access to staff

This can be a major challenge for those running their pharmacies regionally and rurally. With a smaller population, there is simply less access to not only quality pharmacists, but retail workers. To encourage pharmacist decentralisation, owners often have to offer more attractive pay packages and rates, which can affect the bottom line.

Consistent numbers through the door

When you have a smaller population, you simply have less paying customers walking through the door. Country patrons are also often affected by challenges not felt by city pharmacies, such as the ripple effect of drought and poor farming seasons. These sort of factors can affect every single business in a country town, because when the land dries up, so too does the cash flow.