If there is one thing all businesses around the world have had to learn in the COVID-19 era, it’s how to adapt.
Locally, one of the first businesses to adapt to physical distancing guidelines was Simpson’s Pharmacy. Recognizing the vulnerability of his senior customers, owner Sean Simpson instituted seniors-only hours from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m., the first hours his store was open. That decision was made March 15, and implemented the next day.
Not long after, to protect the safety of both staff and customers, the store itself closed its doors. Customers were offered free delivery or parking lot pickup, in lieu of browsing the shelves.
Which brings us to their latest adaptation.
Last week, Simpson’s Pharmacy launched online ordering directly from their website. It’s an innovation Simpson says had been in the works for years, with no concrete plan in mind for a start-date. The current climate of physical distancing, however, prompted the long-time family-owned business to push the plans forward much more quickly than anticipated.
“We had been investigating, and looking at options, and this had been a goal,” says Simpson. “The retail trend would indicate that people were doing more of their shopping online, so we knew it would be good for us to do.”
“That day a little over a month ago, when we realized the need for physical distancing and protecting our staff, we knew we had to keep people out of the store. That was the seminal moment that said to me that we have to figure out how to do that right now.”
Simpson says the Pharmasave organization to which his pharmacy belongs has been working on an online platform for its 600 independent owners, but it isn’t fully complete. Simpson’s new online platform was made specifically for his store.
“It’s a Shopify-based store,” he says. “The platform is very intuitive. They give you an opportunity to engage with a Shopify expert. I put out a job, summarizing what we were hoping to do, and they connected us with someone out of Mississauga who helped put it together.”
A work in progress, the online store continues to fill out. Simpson says he chips away at it every day, adding new products that can be purchased online. His goal is to have every product available in the store, also available for purchase via the website.
A quick perusal of the website reveals a well-organized platform, with 21 different categories. Clicking on a section reveals the items available, each represented by clear, bright photographs. Facial tissue, for instance, falls under the Household Essentials category, while Tylenol and other painkillers can be found under Pain Management. Some brands have their own sections. There is also an easy-to-use search function.
Some of the categories currently have very few options, as Simpson is still in the process of populating the menu.
Due mainly to privacy concerns, prescriptions can’t be directly ordered and paid for via the same platform. Customers can, however, enter prescription numbers in another area of the website to place those orders. Prescriptions can then be bundled together with the store orders for pickup or delivery.
For those who prefer to place orders by phone, Simpson says that, of course, is still an option. But he would encourage customers to visit the website if they can, to first find what they are looking for.
“The online store helps to recreate the shopping experience that we’re not allowing people to have right now,” explains Simpson. “As we get more and more product on there, it gives people a chance to tour and see all the different things that we do have to offer.”
The new web store accepts payments via all major credit cards and PayPal accounts. And Simpson’s is offering 20 per cent off a customer’s first online purchase using the discount code StayHomeNOTL. Visit the website at simpsonspharmacy.ca or simpsonspharmacy.store.