Global Navigation

Back to the original version in German.

Bless you

Interview with Dr. Lorenz Schmid, owner and responsible pharmacist of TopPharm Apotheke Paradeplatz, Zurich

Erika Sommer and Cristina Büttikofer-Béltran spoke with Dr. Lorenz Schmid.

Your pharmacy is very centrally located in the city in a prime location. What does your customer profile look like?

In recent years, the profile has changed a lot. Fewer People in Zurich shop, but more foreigners. In terms of turnover, the foreign clientele accounts for about 60%, in frequency 30%. These are tourists or foreign businessmen who know us. It is a bit sobering for me that Zurich residents no longer frequent the city centre as much as they used to.

We also used to have more customers from the right and left shores of Lake Zurich and from the Zürichberg, slightly older people who came by vehicle. Since it has become very difficult in the city center with the accessibility and parking possibilities, these customers have stayed away.

What are the main retail trends in terms of healthcare?

I shall refer below to the retail of pharmacies. In the future, we want to become the contact points par excellence for mild health complaints. This makes more sense than burdening emergency departments (clinics) and doctors' practices with it. However, this presupposes that pharmacies are given more autonomy in basic care. The cantonal health directorate has signalled that it will handle the upcoming implementation of the recently revised national laws as liberally as possible, in the sense of handing over as much responsibility as possible to pharmacies and consumers. This is very welcome.

Furthermore, it is clear that health maintenance and prevention will become increasingly important. Health is not only defined not only as "I am not sick", but as "I feel well". These include movement, freedom from pain, but also the area of beauty. Here, pharmacies will increasingly offer special treatments, as we do with the newly developed module "Slow Aging". The retail trade must and wants to take up these topics. Those who feel comfortable in their skin are less susceptible to disease. This also avoids mental illness and its consequential costs.

Where do you see important challenges?

Health is a megatrend and will remain so. However, we should make sure that this megatrend does not infinitely increase the costs of "remunerated" health care, but that everyone takes responsibility for their own health into their own hands. Otherwise, health insurance premiums will no longer be affordable. And there is the threat of full funding through taxpayers' money, then sensitivity to health care costs will wane. And costs continue to rise. The pharmacy is an ideal partner for self-responsible action regarding personal health.

What influence do digitalization, new technologies and robotization have in your field?

We have already introduced robotization here. We have a robot in the basement that does the warehouse management. And touch screens that allow self-directed information.
It will certainly increase that people inform themselves on the Internet, but as far as e-commerce is concerned, we are more likely to see stagnation (for a long time). Because in health matters, the consumer still wants to address the last decisive question to a specialist before swallowing something. Swallowing something without expert advice: people have an emotional inhibition, and rightly so.

What other services do you offer in your pharmacy?

We have the so-called "Netcare" offer, which is a system of structured surveys – 26 algorithms – for minor mood disorders. These algorithms are clinically tested and enable the best possible therapy treatment with the best suitable drug. A Netcare conversation lasts about 15 minutes, the professional consultation costs 30 francs. The corresponding training and the pre-investments cost, a sole financing via the margin of the product is not cost-covering. cannot be remunerated through the product alone.

For years, the prices of medicines available in pharmacies have been declining in the healthcare sector. For about 15 years, we have only known about price reductions in Switzerland. A prescription drug costs the same in Switzerland as the average of European countries, via the legally prescribed price comparison. With the price reductions, our profit is getting smaller and smaller, which means that we have to define ourselves about further offers. On the one hand, these are medical services such as blood pressure, cholesterol measurements and checks. On the first floor we offer a whole range of services, e.B. advice on osteoporosis, arthrosis with urine measurements and blood samples. Offers in the field of beauty such as "Slow Age" with skin analysis are also on our offer list. The whole area of consulting is becoming increasingly important.

However, this also means that the demands on personnel have increased.

Enormous! I demand much more from pharmaceutical assistants today than in the past. I need "smarter" assistants. But I also pay a higher salary for this, a development that is not noticeable in all pharmacies. A good pharmaceutical assistant today quickly gets more pay, in the past it was much more static.
In the past, my father simply handed over the product and demanded the price, today it is different. We speak to every product, we talk about every dosage, we talk about every indication. This is the only way we can create a difference to a mail order company or to a large distributor. Migros and Coop will enter this market, which means that we have to differentiate ourselves. The added value lies in the advice. And of course we also have to try to have certain products exclusive. It is not possible for us to advise in the pharmacy, but then people buy the product online.

What about the apprenticeship market? Do you find suitable learners?

Female pharmaceutical assistants are recruited from a segment where we have difficulty generating the necessary skills. They come mainly from the Seconda area. That has changed a lot. Only 20 years ago we had only Swiss women, today we have more people from Turkey and the Balkans. In terms of commitment, our pharmaceutical assistants are usually very good, linguistically and communicatively you have to train them, the "youth slang" is not well received by customers.

What effects of the change in retail do you see in the city of Zurich? How do you assess the framework conditions?

The city has remained constantly complicated in terms of framework conditions for the retail trade and has remained on a level that is unfriendly to retailers. It hasn't gotten worse, but it hasn't improved either. I was president of the Münsterhofvereinigung and had enough experience in dealing with the administration. When they deal with the city, they are dealing with 20 people and you do not know who finally decides and moves forward. But that was already the case 10, 15 years ago. I notice a lethargy there.

The framework conditions for access by private transport have worsened. I am aware that a city primarily needs efficient means of transport in order to be able to cope with high frequency. This is public transport. Nevertheless, there are also customers who place high demands on "privacy" and "convenience", and for better or worse you also need private transport.

more information