Canstar Blue reviews pharmacy chains Amcal, Blooms the Chemist, Chemist Warehouse, Chemmart, Discount Drug Stores, Guardian, My Chemist, Priceline and Terry White Chemists on factors such as service & advice, range of products, availability of pharmacists and health management programs.
Pharmacies have become more than just a building to dispense prescriptions – they’re a place to buy a wide range of health and beauty products, subscribe to various health programs, and seek expert advice on the kind of less serious health matters that probably don’t require a trip to see your doctor. A good pharmacy can be the centre of its community, playing a greater role than just another retailer. Integral to that are the people who work there, with good customer service and advice the main factor in consumers returning time after time. When you can buy most basic medicines at a supermarket, customers need a reason to pick a chemist instead. So, which pharmacy chains are rated highest in Australia? Canstar Blue has the answer.
Our 2017 customer ratings have compared nine leading pharmacy chains on important factors such as service and advice, prescription dispensing, pharmacist availability, health management programs and value for money. This year more than 2,500 adults took part in our research, with Guardian rated highest of the bunch for the first time since 2013.
With a strong focus on regional areas of Australia, as well as the major cities, Guardian earned five stars from its customers across most research categories, including the important areas of service and advice, prescription dispensing and pharmacist availability. Most importantly of all, it was the only chain to score five stars for overall customer satisfaction.
The ratings seem to reflect a split between what could be referred to as ‘traditional’ pharmacies and other low-cost chains, where the focus is more on low prices than great customer service. There may be merit to both types of pharmacies, but when it comes to customer satisfaction, it seems Australian consumers have made their feelings clear.
This year’s survey found that:
Customers who visit more traditional pharmacies are generally more likely to always visit the same chain, the survey found. Guardian customers are the most likely to always visit the same pharmacy chain (65%), while Priceline customers were found to be least likely (47%).
While our review reports on nine leading pharmacy chains in Australia, you may find others in your local area, which could also be worthy of consideration the next time you need to collect a prescription, shop for health products, or seek advice. Here is an overview of the pharmacies in this year’s ratings and details about the services they offer.
Covering a huge range of different health concerns and issues, Guardian champions its key values as ‘advice, trust and care’ with particular focus on family health services and community engagement. Beyond just selling medications, Guardian pharmacies offer support for all kinds of conditions and needs, including allergies, coeliac disease, dental, diabetes, energy, eyes, fertility, hair loss, incontinence, mother and baby care, stress, weight management, and many more. They also offer the ‘Be Good to Yourself’ weight management program and products, as well as ‘Doctors on Demand’ prescription services. Guardian customers can join the Guardian Club to earn 1 point per dollar spent, with every 250 points returning a $5 off voucher. Member benefits also include access to special offers and competitions, and opportunities to earn bonus points. Guardian partners with charity Carers Australia and runs its Guardian Angel Knitting program for avid knitters to support people in need, giving hand-knitted toys, clothes and blankets to hospitals and other community care providers. Guardian is part of the Sigma Pharmaceuticals group, which also owns pharmacy chains Amcal, Pharmasave, Chemist King and Discount Drug Stores.
From humble beginnings in the 1930s, Amcal is now one of the most recognisable chemist chains in Australia. Services available include Doctors on Demand, click and collect ordering, and a long list of pharmacist consultation services, from allergies to wound care, all for no charge. The ‘Be Good to Yourself’ weight loss program and products are also available through Amcal. Students with a UNiDAYS membership can get a 10% discount, while all customers can use Amcal’s loyalty program to collect points redeemable for discounts. Members earn 5 points for every dollar spent (online or in-store) and after accumulating 500 points you’ll receive a $5 discount card – this works out to be the equivalent of a 5% discount. Amcal Rewards members also receive member only offers, competitions, and a $5 off voucher for their birthdays. Amcal has partnered with Carers Australia and supports Cancer Council fundraising and awareness initiatives such as Pink Ribbon Day.
Not to be mistaken with your local florist, Blooms the Chemist offers a comprehensive range of services, as well as price matching on prescriptions, to make budgeting for your health costs a little easier. In-store health services include vaccinations and ‘Blooms HealthChecks’, a range of services targeted towards both pre-empting health issues, as well as managing ongoing ones – you can use Blooms to check in to see whether you need to see a doctor, for example by getting regular blood pressure checks. Customers can join the Blooms Rewards Card Club and earn 1 point for every dollar spent, with every 200 points returning a $10 voucher. Members also have access to special offers and competitions.
Chemmart says it focuses on providing a quality chemist experience, running annual master classes to ensure its pharmacists are equipped to offer the very best personalised service and advice. Chemmart offers a broad range of health services beyond prescriptions, from a number of pathology services, to consultations for common ailments and concerns, plus medication management support. The company was bought by Terry White in late 2016, and the two are now rebranding to form a merged Terry White Chemmart. The transition is still in progress, so your local store may be yet to make the switch.
Standing out for its special focus on women, Priceline offers a massive range of cosmetics, skincare, haircare and other beauty supplies – plus travel and accident insurance. Most of the range – excluding prescriptions and over-the-counter medications – is available through the online store, with a choice of regular delivery for $9.95 (or free for orders over $100), or express delivery for $14.95. On the Priceline website you can find beauty tutorials and health management tips. Members of the Priceline Sister Club, a tiered membership program based on points earned per quarter (one per dollar spent), can earn cash discounts as well as receive birthday rewards and exclusive offers. The charity arm of the company, the Priceline Sisterhood Foundation, raises money to help fight back against serious illness through its charity partners.
One of Australia’s biggest pharmacy chains, Terry White endeavours to provide convenient and useful health services. One of the most convenient services on offer is its online video doctor appointments. For $49, you can consult with a doctor without needing to leave home. These doctors, in addition to medical advice, can dispense prescriptions and issue pathology requests and specialist referrals. The long list of specialist health consultants and programs available at Terry White include hearing clinics, vaccinations (flu, MMR and whooping cough), asthma support, baby clinics, heart health checks, sleep apnoea, bowel screening and diabetes support. Terry White is also the only pharmacy chain offering the Tony Ferguson weight management program and products. As mentioned above, Terry White is now in the process of rebranding its stores ‘Terry White Chemmart’ after acquiring Chemmart in 2016.
In just 16 years, Chemist Warehouse has gone from one shop to over 400 across Australia. This success can be attributed to its low prices and huge product range. Shoppers can visit their local store or shop online, with free shipping on orders over $99 or a flat $8.95 delivery fee. Chemist Warehouse also offers a price guarantee – if you can find the same item at a cheaper price in another Australian store, Chemist Warehouse will match the price plus 10% off the difference.
Since opening its first store in 2001, Discount Drug Stores has expanded to more than 130 locations nationwide. It claims to keep prices low without compromising on service. Discount Drug Stores provides a wide range of pharmacy health services, including pain management consultants (check the online schedule for your local store), absence from work certificates, midwife consultants, pathology, heart health assessments, naturopathy, quit smoking support, weight management and the same ‘Doctors on Demand’ prescription service as Guardian and Amcal. Discount Drug Stores partners with Assistance Dogs Australia (with six assistance dogs sponsored by the company to date) and Free To Be (a child-centred community development program in Kolkata). It also sponsors a number of community fundraiser events, which have so far included research fundraising for multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and cerebral palsy.
A group of independent pharmacies, My Chemist stores are said to share a common philosophy – dedication to health solutions, advice and information. Most of the 30 My Chemist member stores are found across Victoria, with a few in New South Wales and Tasmania as well. For customers who don’t live near a physical store, online orders are also available – including for prescription medications. Script posting is free, and shipping is free for orders over $99 and for all PBS subsidised prescriptions through Australia Post. Otherwise, a flat $8.95 delivery fee applies. The My Chemist product range covers pharmaceuticals through to natural remedies and supplements for everything from arthritis to athletes, as well as nutritional supplement, weight loss, baby care and household products. The personal care range covers fragrance, haircare, cosmetics and skincare.
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have visited and made a purchase from a physical pharmacy in the last month – in this case, 2,542 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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