WASHINGTON, DC — August 12, 2002 — More than half of supermarket operators say that pharmacy operations are a very important part of their business strategy, and nearly 70 percent say that it will be an important component by 2004, according to a report released today by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The study, Report from the 2002 Supermarket Pharmacy Survey, also reveals that prescription sales (as a percentage of total store sales) and volume in 2001 increased for the fifth straight year, despite a reduction in pharmacy operating hours driven by a growing pharmacist shortage.

“Now, more than ever, supermarket pharmacies are an essential component of food retailing operations,” stated Michelle Del Toro Jaketic, research manager at FMI. “Pharmacies enhance the one-stop shopping experience for consumers by providing prescription drugs, periodic health screenings and advice from a trusted health care professional, as well as the foods and products they need for healthy well being.”

Supermarket Pharmacy Expansion Continues

According to the report, there were nearly 9,300 supermarket pharmacies in the U.S. in 2001 — up from the 8,800 recorded in 2000 — giving supermarkets roughly 18 percent of the retail pharmacy marketplace. The survey projects that the number of outlets will likely increase since 60 percent of new supermarkets and 13 percent of remodeled ones include a pharmacy services area, most often combined with a comprehensive health and beauty care (HBC) department.

“A pharmacy department in a store attracts customers by providing them with the convenience of shopping for food while fulfilling their health needs,” added Jaketic. “Moreover, supermarkets are fast becoming an important source of health information.”

The inclusion of in-store pharmacies at the supermarket has positively impacted the industry. When asked about the effect of a pharmacy department on total store sales, all survey participants said store sales increased. The percentage increase varies among companies, with half seeing an increase of less than 6 percent and one-third seeing an increase of at least 10 percent of in-store sales.

The pharmacy department not only impacts store sales, but also drives HBC sales — all survey participants said that adding a pharmacy to a store increased the sales of HBC products. Nearly half of survey participants saw an increase in store sales between 1 and 10 percent. At the same time, close to four in 10 saw an increase in HBC sales of over 20 percent.

Prescription Volume, Sales Continue to Increase

Supermarket pharmacies achieved the largest gain in prescription volume between 2000 and 2001 for the entire retail pharmacy marketplace, dispensing 418 million prescriptions in 2001 — up from 389 million — according to IMS HEALTH data cited in the survey. The median of the average weekly prescription sales per supermarket was $39,017 in 2001, up from $38,000 in 2000.

The volume of generic drugs dispensed by supermarket pharmacies remained relatively unchanged, increasing from 42 to 43 percent between 2000 and 2001. The percentage of prescription sales from generics — 16 percent — declined slightly from the 17 percent recorded in 2000. Despite the flat figures, industry experts expect an expansion of the generic drug market in the next few years, due largely to the expiration of patents for hundreds of drugs and increasing pressure from consumers and health care plan sponsors to get more affordable drugs on the market.

Improving Productivity: Coping with Pharmacist Shortages

The increasing prescription volume and shortage of pharmacists is a growing concern in the pharmacy community. As of December 2001, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) reported 7,744 unfilled pharmacist positions in the United States, an increase of more than 1,000 positions from the prior year. Nearly 40 percent of survey respondents reported a reduction of pharmacy hours in 2001 due to the pharmacist shortage.

To that end, close to six in 10 companies in the survey offered automated telephone answering/interactive voice response service (IVR) to their customers in 2001 — a figure that has almost doubled since 1999. IVR offers convenience to consumers by enabling them to place prescription refill orders over the phone without having to stop by the store.

The development of central fill facilities is still in its early stages, but the percentage of supermarket companies utilizing these systems to improve productivity is increasing slowly but steadily. In 2001, 13 percent of companies surveyed said they had a central processing facility, call desk set up or central fill facility.

Supermarkets: A Health Destination

To enhance the one-stop-shopping-for-health experience, nearly half of the companies surveyed said they offer some type of disease management program in at least one in-store pharmacy. Diabetes, asthma and hyperlipidemia continue to be the most popular programs. Weight management gained ground in the past year, being offered by close to three in 10 companies. This could be a result of data released on increased obesity in the United States.   Osteoporosis screenings also continue to increase in popularity, with 71 percent of companies offering them — a figure that has more than doubled since 1998.

Providing Services Through Virtual Means

Supermarket companies are increasingly using their Web sites to promote pharmacy operations by offering services and information to customers. Eighty-six percent of supermarket companies surveyed include the pharmacy department as part of their Web site.

To keep consumers informed, at least six in 10 pharmacy Web sites include health information and links to health-related sites. Sixteen percent of supermarket pharmacies had pharmacists available to answer questions via e-mail or a chat room in 2001 — a figure that has doubled since 1999. Many companies also provide a comment area for customers to pose their questions and program suggestions.

Online prescription refill capability is still growing in popularity, with currently over half of supermarket pharmacies offering this service. Supermarket pharmacies received a median of seven prescriptions per day via their Web site in 2001.

A practice that has gained interest in the medical community is e-prescribing, with 11 percent of supermarket pharmacies set up to receive e-prescriptions from physicians in 2001. An additional three in 10 plan to set up e-prescribing capabilities by the end of 2002.


The Report from the 2002 Supermarket Pharmacy Survey is based data obtained from supermarket companies operating pharmacies in the United States. A total of 47 companies representing 2,593 stores across North America participated in the survey. Thirteen percent of respondent companies have annual retail sales of less than $100 million, while 45 percent have sales figures between $101 million to $1 billion. Just over four out of 10 have sales over $1 billion per year.

To purchase the report ($25 retailer/wholesaler members, $50 associate members, $60 nonmembers) or for more information, please contact the FMI Store at 202-220-0723 or visit the FMI Web site www.fmi.org/pub.