Positive thinking is just the tonic for pharmacies boss
The managing director of Lloyds pharmacy chain is determined to grow the business despite facing difficult trading conditions
Goretti Brady: “I realised I was too squeamish [for a career in medicine]. I used to practically faint in the dentist’s chair.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley
With many in the struggling pharmacy industry in need of a dose of corporate Prozac, you would expect the managing director of the largest chain of dispensing chemists in the land to be practically sobbing into her mug of tea.
“Would you like a bun with that?” beams Goretti Brady, the boss of the 74-strong Doc Morris pharmacy chain, which is currently in the midst of a major rebrand, becoming Lloyds. Rather disarmingly, the Roscommon woman appears to be as happy as a lark.
All retailers have been hit hard by the recession, but the pharmacy sector has been bludgeoned. About €570 million of government cutbacks on drug bills and shrinking margins, together with the general economic malaise, have hammered the sector’s profitability.
A recent survey by the Irish Pharmaceutical Union found that 80 per cent of pharmacies expect sales to fall during the next six months, one in three plan to cut more staff, while one in four are still loss-making five years into a downturn. Depressing stuff.
Brady, however, doesn’t fit the dreary mould. “I am a big believer in positive thinking and I have tried to bring that into the business. We want to encourage people to lead healthier lives and concentrate on positive living,” she says.
She took over the top job in April from Cormac Tobin, once a protégé of the supermarket supremo Fergal Quinn. Tobin has gone to Britain to work for Celesio, the listed German parent company of the pharmacy group, opening the door for the former marketing and operations boss Brady.
Celesio, which last year sold its Cahill May Roberts drug wholesaling outfit in Ireland to Uniphar, doesn’t break out its Irish financial results, and neither will Brady. The German behemoth, which has sales of €22 billion globally, highlighted Ireland as a difficult market in its latest set of quarterly results.
To Brady’s credit, one of the first things she did after taking the reins was to convince the shareholder to allow her spend €13 million revamping the Irish store network. She has also negotiated a secret budget to expand the chain’s footprint rapidly. Over the next 18 months, Brady hopes to breeze past the 100 store mark. If all goes well, the word is Lloyds may even double its network through acquisitions and franchises.
This month, the chain in Ireland is being rebranded to Lloyds from Doc Morris. Until 2011, when it forked €15 million for its last name change, most of its outlets were known as Unicare. It seems almost flippant to change again so soon, but Brady says that all Celesio pharmacies across the continent are taking part in the revamp.
“It’s a pan-European thing. Sweden has just rebranded as Lloyds, and the French are doing it soon. There are 1,700 pharmacies in the UK that were already known as Lloyds, but they are all getting a revamp too,” she says.