Questions & Answers

Are your prices competitive with other Unichem franchises; in other words, are we paying a ‘Kerikeri Tax’ for shopping with you?

No. We don’t elevate our prices just because we are located in Kerikeri. We are aligned with the Unichem Pharmacy brand who liaise with our suppliers to bring our customers the best possible pricing we can.

In fact, some head office pricing tiers are actually higher than our chosen price points. We look at each item individually and always pass on the best possible price to our customers.

Kerikeri commercial space is said to be leased at a premium. Do you load that premium onto your prices?

You will find that the prices you pay at Unichem Kerikeri Pharmacy are similar to prices you pay at any Unichem store, anywhere in the country. So no, we do not load a premium on to our prices because of the high Kerikeri rents.

31 staff seems a tad extravagant. Why do you need them all?

Not all 31 of our staff are fulltime – we do have job share positions and part-time workers. So our headcount is necessary in order that we can provide a high level of service to our customers.

Our company structure has Unichem Kerikeri Pharmacy as the ‘head office’ with our other three Medical Centre pharmacies as ‘satellites’. If you have been into any of these sites, you will see how busy each is.

There are also a number of vital administrative and professional oversight roles based ‘behind the scenes’.

Being responsible for the financial wellbeing of 31 separate Kerikeri families is a very serious undertaking – and not one we take lightly. Wages account for one-fifth of our expenses and, of course, much of that money is spent locally – supporting other businesses and other families.

You’ve bought up all the competition in Kerikeri and Waipapa – how is that good for consumers?

We are not without competition in Kerikeri – our local supermarkets and health stores are in competition with us, as are online retailers.

In terms of pharmacies, we have set these up deliberately so that each has a different ‘feel’. We feel this helps us provide something for everyone. Some may not like the larger pharmacy, with its hustle and bustle, in which case there are quieter and more intimate options available.

We have placed pharmacies inside medical centres to be a one-stop-shop for patients’ needs.  This means that customers have no need to move cars, find new parking spots, or struggle to get close to the main store. This is ideal for people who are mobility impaired, or so sick that they just want to get home.

The fact that we have scale is good for consumers because it can deliver better buying power, meaning that we are able to offer better prices.

How do you determine your prices?

Some of our prices, especially those that feature in our monthly catalogue, are dictated through the Unichem Head Office. They have experts who liaise with our suppliers to bring our monthly catalogue together where we can offer better prices on some items. They offer the expertise to bring our customers consistent, best value offerings.

Our inventory controller continually works with pricing. When we receive a better buy-in price from the wholesaler the customer will often benefit from the saving, not the store.

I don’t buy the 'local store employing heaps of people and servicing the community’ line. Maybe if you weren’t part of a massive pharma chain. But you are.

Yes, we are part of the Unichem brand but due to pharmacy ownership rules, this type of licensee arrangement is different to the ‘McDonalds’ franchise type.  Unichem Pharmacies are all privately-owned businesses, ranging from small medical centre pharmacies to large pharmacies in malls or on main commercial strips, like ours.

They have all joined Unichem to benefit from Unichem’s expertise in marketing, and Unichem’s buying power. They all still must be relevant in their own communities and have to be sustainable as individual businesses.

Unichem Kerikeri Pharmacy is owned by a local Kerikeri pharmacist, Vicki Douglas, who grew up here and who moved back to be nearer family.

Unichem is not a small outfit – surely it has equal buying power, if not greater, than the discount retailers?  

The buying power is the same but discount retailers are selling product at less than cost. They use this to drive people through their doors where their customers will be tempted to buy other items. Often the prices of these other goods are higher than those at Unichem pharmacies. They have huge backing from their Australian corporate structure and they can afford to take a financial hit while establishing their discount chain in New Zealand. Their massive volume of sales for these loss-leaders is something we cannot match.

All those additional specialist diagnostic and prescribing services, and community services and outreach, should wash their own faces commercially. Does this mean that when I buy at Unichem Kerikeri I’m subsidising these services that I don’t need and don’t use?

Definitely not. These services are not commercial offerings; rather they are subsidised by District Health Board funding where the DHB has seen a need in the community to create better access and equity. This meets their directives from the Ministry of Health and the Pharmacy Action Plan.

Remuneration for these services is limited compared to the investment this business makes in staff (time and training), equipment and reporting.

On the other hand, discount pharmacies cherry-pick which services they offer. Their dispensaries exist to increase foot traffic to drive retail sales, and to sell both pharmacist-only and pharmacy-only medicines - purely to distinguish themselves from the supermarket down the road.

As a community, we are lucky to have this many DHB-funded services available. Other communities in areas covered by different DHBs have to travel for hours to access this same service and are charged to receive it.