Regional multiples boost market share by 40% as large chains downsize
The number of pharmacies owned by mid-size operators across the UK leapt by 40 per cent in the 12 months to April, an analysis by broker Christie & Co shows.
In an annual review of the sector published this week, Christie & Co said the number of pharmacies owned by chains of 20-300 stores jumped from 1,656 to 2,337, while chains of 300 or more stores saw their market share drop by 13 per cent to 4,880. The top eight multiples saw a combined net closure of 249 pharmacies.
By comparison, the number of single branch independents held steady at 3,558 (a decline of one pharmacy compared to April 2022), while the number of operators with 6-15 stores fell slightly – partly driven the expansion of several regional multiples taking them into the 20+ plus category.
“The sector’s composition is now weighted firmly in favour of regional multiples, whilst those companies operating more than 300 pharmacies have reduced to circa 34% of the overall market,” said Tony Evans and Christopher Vowles Frics from Christie & Co.
The year-total figures will likely see these trends played out to an even more dramatic extent, they added, as the sell-off of vast numbers of LloydsPharmacy branches and the closure of 300 Boots stores progress to their final stages. They warned that this will “put pressure on the remaining community pharmacy network and dramatically impact patient access and associated services”.
Commenting on the health of the transaction market, the brokers said: “Encouragingly, sales agreed for the first half of 2023 were up 45 per cent on the same period in 2022, whiles completed sales were on par, partly due to the significant delay the sector saw in the processing of fitness to practise and change of ownership applications.
“What is clear is that appetite remains constant and bodes well for the remainder of the year and into 2024.”
They noted that while sales involving first-time buyers made up just a quarter of all sales in the 12-month period, during the first quarter of 2023 a third of pharmacies sold went to individuals buying their first pharmacy.