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Pharmacy in the U.S. vs Pharmacy in Spain

So, recently I took a hiking trip traversing the Camino de Santiago across Spain, it was an awesome experience! I covered about 500 miles and on the journey I saw all sorts of great architecture, enjoyed some awesome cuisine, and was treated to the hospitality of the Spanish culture.  On an extended trip like that […]

So, recently I took a hiking trip traversing the Camino de Santiago across Spain, it was an awesome experience! I covered about 500 miles and on the journey I saw all sorts of great architecture, enjoyed some awesome cuisine, and was treated to the hospitality of the Spanish culture.  On an extended trip like that one of the things you notice is the differences between the two countries. If you’ve been to Europe I am sure one of the things you remember is the green cross as a pharmacy sign.  On the hike I would pass by at least two or three a day.  Most were neon, some were plastic, but they all said the same thing, help is available here.

Once inside the stores there had a lot smaller front end, and a lot larger back end than what is standard in the US.   The floor plan was always one story somewhere between 800-1200 sq feet.   Basic items like tape and gauze for your feet, knee braces, and ibuprofen were sold, but you would ask for them and the pharmacist would go behind the counter or to the back of the store and pull out what you need.  The good thing about this is the customer service is extremely high there.  The bad thing is that you could be settling for something that is close to what you want rather than getting exactly what you want, especially if shopping in a foreign country with a language barrier, and there weren’t competing brands of a single item.  If you came up with a new, better tape or knee brace getting the pharmacy to stock or promote it could be a problem.

There were very few point of purchase items near the register.  Your not going to buy a red bull or a snickers at the pharmacy.  Also there was no real branding.  They were pharmacies, not Pedro’s Pills or Javier’s Cures, just “Pharmacy”.  In Oregon we have state run liquor stores and they had a similar feel to what these pharmacies had, because you have a license you are competing more on your geographical location than any other factor so marketing and merchandizing was not used much to push business.

One thing you realize on the hike is what a staple the pharmacy store is.  We would be in villages that were 4 streets by 3 streets and sometimes they would still have a pharmacy.  Outside of a cafe I would say it was the second most common business we walked across on the hike.  It means the profession is an important one.

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