Walgreens, the second largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., is about to acquire nearly 2,000 Rite Aid stores in a $4.3 billion dollar deal. It will then close the doors on about 1/3 of them in an effort to consolidate and optimize their operation. Walgreens is not disclosing which Rite Aid stores will be closed, but most will likely be within a mile of currently operating Walgreens locations.
Pharmacists and technicians are wondering about what this means for their careers. A spokesperson for Walgreens has said they “will look to retain as many employees as possible.” Nevertheless, it is reasonable to assume that a significant number of employees will not be offered jobs if their store is closed. This whole process is set to begin happening in the spring of 2018 and take 18 months to complete.
The whole situation is further evidence of the difficulties facing the retail pharmacy industry at the moment. Earlies this year we saw Target stores sell their pharmacy operations to CVS, and many anticipate that slower stores will eventually close as profitability simply cannot be sustained without significant volume. We saw this recently when CVS purchased 20 Fagan pharmacy locations in northwest Indiana, and closed 12 of them.
Additionally, many are wondering what will happen if the recent news about Amazon entering the pharmacy market comes to pass. If Amazon can lure away additional local pharmacy customers, then it is reasonable to assume the dropping prescription volume could lead to more closures of community based pharmacies across the country. And fewer pharmacies mean fewer jobs.
What should a pharmacist in this situation be doing? Here are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” to think about.
DO stay calm. This isn’t the time for panic or making rash decisions you will regret shortly. This is maybe more true in health care than in any other field. Every day patients are depending on your top performance. Getting too distracted by worrying can lead to making serious mistakes that will hurt both patients and your career.
DON’T ignore the situation. While you don’t want to overreact, you also don’t want to underreact. Changes are coming. Now is the time to carefully be thinking about your own career goals and what you really want to be doing as a pharmacist. Maybe this is just the motivation you needed to make a change in your career path, add some additional certifications to your resume or even pack up and move to that location of the country you have always wanted to live in.
DO think about what the new company wants to accomplish. Be involved in their success. In an article about surviving a merger in Forbes magazine, the author says “Maybe it’s time to turn yourself into a flesh-and-blood asset. Start by being proactive. Ask someone to introduce you to key players. Inquire how you can help ease the transition and make them more comfortable.”
DON’T overestimate your value to a company. I don’t want to sound negative, but business is business. I’ve seen many very good professionals lose jobs during restructurings or mergers, and they never saw it coming. Be realistic. For pharmacists, be honest about the assets that are most valuable to your employer. Are you very flexible with respect to your hours? Do you have a great reputation with staff and patients? Are you typically a problem-solver or more of a complainer? Are you more expensive than other employees due to excessive salary or benefits? These are all important questions to think about.
DO embrace the changes and stay positive. Zig Ziglar said that “attitude determines altitude.” He was right. Every career will usually encounter some serious testing points. This might be one of those times for you. Another person said “being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.”
While a store closing may be an unexpected challenge, it doesn’t have to be devastating. That knocking on the door might just be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.