Spending spikes at pharmacies across Australia throughout pandemic
24 August 2022
A new report has revealed spending at pharmacies across Australia significantly increased during the pandemic, as more people relied on pharmacies for their purchases and health services.
Westpac’s Counting on Community Pharmacies report, in partnership with The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, shows the average spend on retail products and other health services increased by 56 per cent between February 2020 to February 2022, while spending on prescription medicines increased by just 5 per cent across the same period.
The report shows the number of transactions between July 2019 and February 2022 increased by 10 per cent, while the change in per basket spend increased by 36 per cent, from $26.30 to $35.80.
“The COVID-19 pandemic turbocharged spending in pharmacies across Australia as consumers ramped-up their investment in healthcare and leant into the skills and expertise of their local pharmacist including community vaccination programs” said Shane Howell, Westpac’s Managing Director, Business Lending.
“This resulted in a 21 per cent increase in total spending from July 2019 to February 2022, from $92.5 million to $112.3 million.
“Foot traffic into pharmacies was buoyed by the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, where approximately eight million COVID-19 vaccines were administered by mid-2022,” he said.
The data showed spending at Central Business District (CBD) pharmacies dramatically spiked in March 2020 as the pandemic reached Australia and before employees transitioned to working from home, and then spending quickly shifted to local pharmacies in more suburban areas.
“While many CBD pharmacies were able to quickly pivot to online orders, interestingly overall online purchases decreased by 38 per cent, while instore spending increased by 61 per cent, showing the value people place on face-to-face service,” Mr Howell said.
“Now that workers are flocking back to cities, and customers have forged new purchasing behaviours in supporting local too, the pharmacy industry has proved it plays an incredibly important role in the health of Australians and remains in a strong position.”
“Looking forward, pharmacies are increasingly being seen as a critical part of the primary health sector, which is why there is great optimism among local pharmacies across Australia and why we believe the future is healthy,” Mr Howell said.
Professor Trent Twomey, National President of The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, said pharmacies were the only healthcare destination in Australia that didn’t limit their access to people during lockdown, which influenced the purchasing behaviours of customers.
“Emergency departments were turning many people away. Elective surgeries were cancelled. Many GPs took to telehealth, while pharmacies did not shut,” he said.
“We saw a lot of people with clinical presentations who ordinarily would have sought advice from either a hospital or a general practitioner. There was a new reliance on community pharmacies during this time."
The full report can be accessed here.
Note for editors:
The data in the report was drawn from activity from more than 10 million Westpac Group cardholders in addition to 800 community pharmacies across Australia, supplied by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia.