How to avoid a merry melt down!

By Linden Pirrone, Guild Trainer and Assessor

While children all around the world are writing their Christmas wish list for Santa, many of us are holding our breath in anticipation for yet another manic Christmas season. So why are we holding our breath and not making a Christmas wish list of our own? There is nothing stopping us as Pharmacy Assistants and Retail Managers to write a Christmas wish list asking for a ‘Perfect Pharmacy Christmas’. Don’t worry; I’ve done the hard work for you, and complied a wish list for you, and brainstormed some solutions for the many obstacles that many arise.

So here it is; some food for thought! It wouldn’t be Christmas without the food, would it?

My Pharmacies Christmas wish list

Ideas to make it happen

1. Maintain a well presented Pharmacy from the moment we open to the moment we close.
  • Appoint a staff member for each opening hour to tidy and refresh all displays throughout the pharmacy.
2. All items on our catalogue arrive on time.
  • Confirm the exact date the drop is expected and call the wholesaler/company in advance to clarify and manage your expectations.
3. Contacting my top 100 safety net customers and ensure they have enough medications to last the holidays.
  • Break the 100 customers into the days of December to contact. For example, call five customers each day for the first 20 days of December.
4. Having enough stock to last until the new year
  • If Santa is making his list (of orders) and checking it twice, then we should as well!
5. Staff know what to do and how to work as a team
  • Develop and define each staff member’s role during the Christmas period to avoid confusion and conflict. For example, appoint a staff member or members as the gift wrapping specialist.


6. Staff are happy to work the extra shifts to help with the extra volume of customers and the extended trading hours.
  • Try to incorporate some flexibility or rewards as compensation for working the shifts that no one wants to work over Christmas.
  • Try to incorporate some extra ‘goodwill’ breaks when there is a quieter spell to help staff take a breather and recharge their batteries. This will also maintain a positive atmosphere in the pharmacy and give staff an opportunity to see beyond the queue of customers and soak up the excitement of Christmas.
  • Let the staff know that you understand that they can only attend to one customer at a time and the quality of service still needs to remain at the usual standard. At the bare minimum staff are expected to at least acknowledge every customer that enters the store. Try to prepare your staff as Christmas usually brings in customers who are extra frantic and perhaps demanding. Be sure to provide your staff with the support they need to handle these situations.
7. Advertise to a broader range of customers with a clear message of your pharmacies products, services and opening ours.
  • Embrace technology and other sources of media to advertise your pharmacy and to alert customers to opening hours over Christmas
  • Select a staff member to monitor advertising in all areas including social media, web pages, visual signs and even word of mouth.
8. Finalise all accounts by the end of the year.
  • Many of us can estimate the time it takes to finalise accounts. Be generous and allow yourself plenty of time plus extra to finalise accounts. Be prepared for interruptions and extra tasks that pop up while you are finalising.
9. Having enough staff to handle the Christmas period.
  • Being short staffed at one point over the Christmas period is not unusual. Try to develop a backup roster. Ask the staff to nominate times and days that they could work extra if needed.
  • If possible try and allocate a staff member to welcome customers at the door. This will help facilitate customer’s enquiry and minimise congestion.
  • Be sure that any staff assisting in the scheduled medicine counter have the appropriate QCPP training.
10. Make a great profit on gifts and catalogue items and sell through as many items on the Christmas catalogue.
  • Invite your regular customers to a VIP viewing and pre-Christmas launch.  It is also great to have one or two members of your team report on the sales made from the catalogue throughout the month of December and report to the Manager on a daily basis. This doesn’t have to be a typically generated report; pure observation is a great alternative.
  • Construct a paper Christmas tree listing particular targets to reach on the tree. Once you reach the top of the tree, place a star or angel to signify the ultimate goal is reached. You could have a series of Christmas trees as a race to the top!