‘There’s more to Watsons than beauty products’
Watsons, Asia’s leading pharmacy brand, has been in the country for 10 years now. It has been doing well, retailing both beauty and health products, with its branch network expected to exceed 310 by the end of 2012.
Robert Sun, Watsons Personal Care Stores (Phils) Inc. general manager, is quick to admit though that the local market thinks of Watsons more as a beauty store rather than both a drug and beauty/wellness store.
“There’s more to Watsons than just beauty products,” Sun says, referring not only to the wide array of products that the store carries but also to the company’s commitment to help Filipino consumers look and feel good. It lives up to this commitment by providing them with medicine and wellness products at affordable prices, and extra services to keep the consumers informed.
While Watsons sells both branded and generic medicine, Sun says it gives the latter an extra push to make sure that Filipino consumers are aware that they have a choice and to enable those who have very little budget to afford their required medication.
The extra push comes in the form of its “Buy Generics and Save” campaign, which is aimed at educating the consumers about generic drugs, particularly on how to choose the right drugs and the benefits that can be derived from using them.
“We are trying to correct the perception of many that generic drugs are not effective. That thinking may be partly true given all those unregulated imported drugs mainly from China and India, but there are a lot of generic drugs that are as effective as their branded counterparts and are 70 to 80 percent cheaper,” says Sun.
He says consumers only need to know how to choose them. Thus, in its campaign, Watsons shares some tips on how to pick the right drugs.
They are the right ones, according to Watsons, if the drugs were manufactured by trusted pharmaceutical companies, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and sold by reputable pharmacy retailers.
“We strictly observe these criteria. We carry only generic medicines that are made by trusted manufacturers and approved by the FDA, so we can tell the consumers that if they buy from Watsons, they are assured of the efficacy and quality of the drugs. We will never carry substandard medicines,” Sun stresses.
Generic medicines carried by Watsons are those produced by, among others, United Laboratories, Pascual Laboratories, Ritemed, Novartis and Pharex.
Also, all pharmacists and pharmacy assistants at Watsons, he says, are trained on a continuing basis not only to read prescriptions and sell medicines but also to engage the consumers in informative discussions about the drugs they are buying.
“When presented prescriptions by the buyers, our pharmacists are trained to counsel them, address their concerns and present to them alternative generic drugs. The pharmacists explain to the buyers what the drugs are for, why they should not miss taking them and the expected effects of the drugs on them,” Sun says.
“Our people take time to talk to the consumers. We try to make our consumers understand why the specific drugs were given to them. [We also] recommend cheaper but equally effective alternatives. We accommodate all questions from them,” he adds.
Watsons’ efforts to push generic drugs are not confined in its stores.
It has tied up with various medical associations and pharmacy schools to promote the inclusion in school curricula of subjects that deal with generic drugs and will teach future pharmacists how to become more relevant and add value to their services.
Stepping up its generic drugs campaign, Watsons moves to make it easier for customers to find the generic counterparts of their branded medications. This is by putting up in its stores “Buy Generics counters,” which will not only carry all generic drugs the stores are selling but also offer the so-called Watsons Compliance Packs for chronic and acute diseases, and Watsons Health Packs for common ailments such as headache, stomach ache, colds and allergies.
These compliance packs, which are sold at the lowest possible prices, are aimed at making it affordable for consumers to complete the dosage of the medicines prescribed to them by their doctors.
The packaging of the compliance packs looks the same, with the name of the manufacturer, Unilab, and the retailers, Watsons.
“We put our name on them because we attest to the efficacy and quality of the drugs in those packs,” Sun says.
“Due to the prohibitive cost of branded medicines, some people stop taking their medicines without completing the dosage prescribed. That is not good because by doing so, one develops immunity to the drug. The cost issue is addressed, as the generic drugs in those packs cost 70 to 80 percent lower than the branded drugs,” he explains.
The campaign for generics is paying off.
About six out of 10 consumers of drugs for chronic diseases, or those with maintenance, have already shifted to generics, he says.
Watsons Philippines, a partnership between the A.S. Watsons Group of Hong Kong and SM Prime Holdings, is convinced it should reach out to more markets and expand its generics campaign. It is continuing its aggressive expansion, with the objective of putting up an average of 40 stores yearly.
“We are putting up stores in places where people live or work or relax, or a combination of these. That’s why we are mainly in malls and condominiums. For the smaller communities, we put up our stores in SaveMore, SM’s community stores,” Sun says.
He says Watsons also makes sure that buying from its stores will be a good shopping experience for the consumers.
“We keep our stores clean, fashionable and organized. We believe Filipinos like to shop in an environment that they can enjoy. Some may find our stores intimidating, but they will get used to them and enjoy the setting.”
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