Supermarkets keep broadening their offer and time- and cash-strapped shoppers are only too happy take advantage. But when it comes to health and pharmaceuticals, can the supermarkets’ convenience trump the specialists’ customer care?

Convenience is the name of the game with shopping at the moment. While shoppers are loath to take a trip to the high street they are picking up bits and pieces in their normal course of events.

Which is why the supermarkets are feeling pretty good about themselves at the moment. As consumers we all need to eat, so food shopping is essential. With the amount of non-food items shoppers buying at supermarkets on the up, it seems people are cramming as much of their shop into one place.

But it’s not just in terms of non-food where grocers can cash in, it’s also services. This week Retail Week has revealed that Tesco is ramping up its pharmacy offer. The grocer wants to reach a target of 350 pharmacies within the next three years and has also not ruled out taking the offer international.

Pharmacy is an interesting part of a supermarket’s offer. It’s a lucrative business offering NHS services alongside the gamut of everyday pharmacy needs.

The biggest advantage a supermarket has over a local chemist though is convenience. Most consumers who work 9am to 5pm will know that if you need to pick up a prescription or quickly want advice on something, then you have to do it in work time. A supermarket’s pharmacy has an advantage as it is open until 10pm in many cases.

On the other hand, the local pharmacy has a wealth of experience under its belt. Many pharmacies – be they Lloydspharmacy, an independent, or a Your Local Boots Pharmacy – have a strong relationship with the community and their pharmacists are trusted. Many of the local pharmacists know their customers inside out, know their families, and know their worries. This relationship will live on despite the fact the chemist may not be open at the right times for the customer.

Grocers – including Asda and Sainsbury’s that are also growing their pharmacy offers – probably won’t achieve such a community feel. Supermarkets have hundreds of shoppers through their doors every day and maintaining those individual relationships will be difficult. The advice and care will not be brought into question, only the relationships local pharmacies have developed over many years.

Tesco is a dab hand at extending its brand to other sectors and it will undoubtedly make a success of its pharmacies. But there is a lot to be said for the community feel and supermarkets getting into this sector won’t spell the death knell for traditional pharmacies just yet.