Disclaimer: This is an example of a student written essay.
Click here for sample essays written by our professional writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKEssays.com.

Case Study Malaysias Retail Pharmacy Marketing Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 4433 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

Reference this


The report aims to provide an overview retail pharmacy industry and evaluate factors that propel and restrain the market, government policies, sales trends, potential growth and market outlook. Challenges related to the pharmaceutical retail sector will be outlined and assessed, and insights into marketing plans being deployed to tap into available market opportunities in Malaysia will also be discussed.

Malaysia’s retail pharmacy : an overview

Malaysia comes in at fifth in healthcare expenditure when compared to select Asian nations, and is growing at approximately 13% annually (Frost & Sullivan 2008). The total national expenditure on healthcare in 2009 exceeded USD 7 billion, and is projected to surpass USD 10 billion by 2020. Retail pharmacy sector presently however contributes only to 17% of the total expenditure only due to restrictions pertaining to government policies, profession workforce, and population perception.

The retail pharmacy sector traditionally can be described using organization size and product/service mix criteria. Sole units are comprised primarily of independent pharmacies, usually owned by pharmacists. Multiple-unit pharmacy organizations, or chains, can be divided into small chain and large chain (e.g. 30 or more units).

In addition to organization size, the retail pharmacy sector can be characterized by the product/service mix of the organizations, though there is some blurring of this distinction. Some traditional categories include, supermarket (e.g. AEON), and, beauty and healthcare stores (e.g. Guardian, Watsons). Pure drug store is virtually non-existent in the Malaysian retail pharmacy sector as a result of no dispensing separation between the pharmacists and medical practitioners whereby pharmaceutical products can be sold and dispensed by medical practitioners as well. Consequently, this policy, have and still negatively impacting the pharmacy profession practice and retail viability of pure drug store in Malaysia. Therefore, current retail pharmacies generally offer both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical product/services to maintain viable in Malaysian market.

The major participants in the Malaysian retail pharmacy scene are multinational corporations such as GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd and Watsons Personal Care Store, local companies such as Caring Pharmacy and Trustz Pharmacy, and a plethora of small independently operated pharmacies.

In 2009, the multinationals, GCH’s Guardian and Watsons collectively dominated 54% of the total market share whilst 46% was divided among local retail pharmacies as shown above (Euromonitor 2010). Generally experienced in dealing with large industries, these multinational corporations compared to the domestic counterparts, have the experties in handling processing, packaging, logistics, inventory management etc. In addition, they have the advantages of economies of scale, retailing of in-house brand, increase in market profit and share, and wider discount parameter for retail healthcare products.

chapter 1

External and internal factors influencing retailer’s marketing strategies

In this bearish economy, retailing in Malaysia recorded a downtempo in current value growth (CVG) in 2009 compared to previous year but still at a positive pace (Euromonitor 2010). GDP forecast was reevaluated in May 2009 from 4% to 5% decline for 2009 in light of deteriorating international economic outlook (Euromonitor 2010). While consumer confidence dwindled, discretionary spending was reduced but appeared willing to spend a little bit more during promotional period or turned to cheaper alternatives such as mid-priced/economical in-house brands or generic medications.

With ongoing urbanization trend, higher education levels and better living standards generated greater enthusiasm among “post recession shopper”consumers regarding self-medication. This further strengthened the importance of retail pharmacies as consumers were able to acquire OTC healthcare, nutritional products and prescription drugs from retail pharmacies.

Overall trend of the retail pharmacy sector is gearing towards the sales of generics and OTCs in times of recession. Price of generics are generally lower, 27%-90%, compared to branded/innovator products (Shafie & Hassali 2008). Therefore a more cost friendlier option for consumers whilst profit margins of generics are higher than branded/innovator products, which is favorable to retailers – a win-win solution. However, sales of non-prescription products such as OTCs, TCMs, vitamins and supplements are still the main contributor to the retail pharmacy’s revenue at 79%. These products similarly are seeing growth in sales fueled by gains in cough, cold and allergy remedies, amid global slowdown since 2008.

Having said so, retailers still employ different marketing strategies to distinguish themselves from existing competitors and attempt to reposition themselves as market leaders – some successful while some struggled. Strategies pertaining to each of the different type of organizations will be further discussed as follow:

Strategies employed by multinational corporation

The multinationals (i.e Guardian, Watsons) have taken a broad spectrum approach by attempting to diversify from traditional dispensing services common to the concept of a pharmacy, into other other market segments regarding to general healthcare and beauty solution to penetrate into wider consumer segments during the time of recession. The retailers responded by engaging in regular promotions and extended sales period to encourage spending and offering a combination of both pharmaceutical services with beauty care.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Rapid expansion strategies undertaken by leading chained retailers resulted in a substantial escalation in the chained store numbers in the nation. 2009 saw a slight improvement in the average selling space per outlet of beauty and health specialist retailers. More retailers began opening stores in shopping malls which were larger than their standalone establishments. Most beauty and health specialist retailers launch their retail chains in Klang Valley. This is largely due to greater purchasing power among urban consumers.

Nonetheless, more beauty and health specialist retailers are expanding outside Klang Valley in order to serve the rising population and growing purchasing power of consumers in East Malaysia and secondary states. Launching of budget in-house brand is to cover a wider range of consumer segment.

Guardian: target market, product and services, promotion

GCH Retail (M) Sdn Bhd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a Hong Kong based Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd, listed on the Hang Seng Stock Exchange. Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd is 78% owned by the Jardine Matheson Group, which is listed on the FTSE Stock Exchange in addition to secondary listings on the Singapore Straits and Bermuda Stock Exchanges (Euromonitor 2010).

In Malaysia, the company is involved in the operation of Guardian pharmacy, Cold Storage supermarket and Giant hypermarket outlets. In 2009, as a result of its aggressive outlet expansion, with 20 new Guardian outlets, and proactive promotion including daily specials boosted the company’s pharmaceutical market share to 35% – Figure 2.0, occupying the largest cut of the retail pharmacy market segment. GCH Retail’s Guardian brand is leading the pack because the retail format is gradually becoming popular in Malaysia. For instance, Guardian spearheaded the concept of modern retail pharmacy by providing professional consultation and service by registered pharmacists, plus holistic health and personal care solution.

GCH Retail’s in-house brand offers quality products at affordable prices because the company’s in-house products are manufactured and sourced locally. Moreover, the company, targeting all consumer segment, from low to high income earners, was very aggressive in promoting its home brand products in terms of advertising and promotions, while also developing its product ranges. For instance, Guardian dedicated half a page or full-page advertisements in their in-store brochures or leaflets for their in-house brand products. GCH Retail’s share of in-house brand products has been growing steadily largely due to developing brand recognition as well as the wider range of items available. In response to the Malaysian government’s support initiatives designed to spur small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia, it is expected that the company will continue to source new products for its in-house brand lines.

External and internal factors analysis




Economic slowdown

Decentralized marketing function: inconsistent brand image


Retracted consumer spending

Increased rivalry between competitors


Import/Export: Malaysian Ringgit vs Hong Kong Dollar

Good management: able to respond to market change


Change in consumer’s spending pattern

Both external and internal factors influence how the company decides to operate. The external factors will be the same for all the market players.

Watsons personal care store: target market, product and services, promotion

Watsons Personal Care Stores (WPCS) is a subsidiary of the AS Watson Group which is wholly owned by the Hong Kong based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd listed on the Hang Seng Stock Exchange main board and has been in Malaysia since 1994.

Being the largest beauty and health retail chain in Asia, in Malaysia, with 211 outlets nationwide following the successful merger and acquisition of Apex Pharmacy Sdn Bhd in Jun 2005, WPCS is one of the most accomplished personal care chain stores (Euromonitor 2010). In 2009, albeit with pharmaceutical value share of 19% – Figure 2.0, due to increasing number of beauty and health specialist retailers, WPCS remained the largest community pharmacy retail chain in Malaysia. Having said so, continuous marketing efforts and promotions such as television advertisements, complimentary beauty and health information to consumers, and storewide 20% discount campaign, helped restrain its fall in value share.

WPCS offers competitively priced and quality in-house brand products. Its in-house brand lines consist of a larger proportion of cosmetics and toiletries, disposable paper products, OTC healthcare products, bottled water and electrical items, is mainly designed for mass consumers, especially the budget end of the market. The company has been very active in pushing its in-house brand. For example, it has dedicated more shelf space in-store for its inhouse brand items. Coupled with growing brand recognition, as well as a wider range of products, the company’s share of in-house brand has grown steadily.

External and internal factors analysis




Economic slowdown

Over expansion resulting in dissipated consumer services


Retracted consumer spending

Increased rivalry between competitors


Import/Export: Malaysian Ringgit vs Hong Kong Dollar

Extensive outlet coverage nationwide


Change in consumer’s spending pattern

Strategies employed by smaller pharmacy

Marketing model of smaller pharmacies focus on establishing good rapport with its customer base and to provide individually customized pharmaceutical services for their clients to cater on the needs of selected consumer segments. The smaller retailers responded by provided extended hour services for the convenience of consumers after working hours access to pharmaceutical items and advice. Loyalty marketing is introduced to maintain or expand their customer base in light of even more competitive environment. A loyalty program may be specific to an individual retailer, or an independent coalition scheme involving a few partners. The latter model is gaining popularity in Malaysia and is established in Europe, Australia and Canada. Specialized services exclusive to pharmacy such as pre-packed dosettes medications to ensure better compliance to medicine, insulin dose adjustments for uncontrolled diabetes management and methadone replacement therapy for heroin dependent patient, cater to unique patients segment that is gradually increasing.

Caring pharmacy: target market, product and services, promotion

Caring Pharmacy Sdn Bhd is a group of pharmacies under one banner collectively shares the same supply and inventory management similar to that of chain stores, however each outlets are independently owned and operated by pharmacists.

Caring Group currently have 46 registered pharmacists operating 40 outlets in Klang valley. Therefore giving the Group the highest number of pharmacist to outlet ratio among retail pharmacy operators in Malaysia.

With market share of 12% in 2009 – Figure 2.0, Caring is emerging fast as one of the most established local community retail pharmacy. Providing extended hour services from the early hours up to midnight proved to be a potent strategy in establishing its market share as it provides time flexibility to consumers. Caring offers professional consultation by registered pharmacists on uncomplicated ailments and medication management solutions such as pre-packed medications similar to the multi dose Webster-Pak® for the consumer’s convenience.

Find Out How UKEssays.com Can Help You!

Our academic experts are ready and waiting to assist with any writing project you may have. From simple essay plans, through to full dissertations, you can guarantee we have a service perfectly matched to your needs.

View our services

The group has been actively promoting its pharmacist consultation service. For instance, public awareness talks by pharmacists on health topics such as hypertension, diabetes, weight-management etc. are frequently organized. Launched in 2006, the first pharmacy reward program as a points accumulation and gift redemption card with Malaysia’s premier multi-party loyalty program – BonusLink, enabled Caring to establish closer contact with their regular clients.

External and internal factors analysis




Economic slowdown

Too focused on domestic/localization growth


Retracted consumer spending

Increased rivalry between competitors


Change in consumer’s spending pattern

Good corporate core value: pharmacist service for all consumer segments


chapter 2

Strategic recommendation for the retail pharmacy industry

The Malaysian as well as the global economy continued to see tough times in 2009. Despite an unemployment rate that was on the rise and consumer spending falling, consumers remained largely loyal to established pharmacy names when it comes to fulfilling their healthcare needs. Some consumers also switched to self-medication in times of minor ailments as a bid to go back to work for fear that they might lose their jobs in the recession. Retail pharmacies are seeing an increase in consumer sales contribution of 0.2% for 2009 against 2008. This was largely due to the expansion of outlets such as Watsons which attracted consumer interest for its one-stop shopping.

Offer Mix




Promotion Mix

Sales promotion


Sales force

Public relations

Direct & online marketing

Target consumers

Marketing-mix strategy

Target consumers : consumer demographic outlook and lifestyle trend

In 2007, the population in Malaysia was reported to be just over 27 million which, according to United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. By 2015, it’s projected that Malaysia’s population will reach more than 30.7 million.

Currently, the country has relatively young population, with nearly 60% Malaysians below the age of 30 in 2007. Regardless, the population is steadily aging, with the median age of the population increasing from 22.5 years in 1995 to 24.6 years in 2007. The aging population in Malaysia, usually earning more than their younger counterparts and are usually relatively established in terms of family and home and more aware of their health status, is expected to drive consumer healthcare expenditure. Consumer of this category is expected to drive increased demand for medical and health-related products and services, including pharmaceuticals and OTC drugs, vitamins and dietary supplements, health drinks and medical equipment.

On the other hand, it’s projected that still over one-half of the Malaysian population will be under 30 years-old in 2015 so, while there will be some new emphasis on products for older consumers, younger consumers will remain a potent force, exercising significant purchasing power and driving continuing demand for the wide range of youth oriented products. This category of consumers are becoming more health conscious, recent survey that 80% of fast moving consumer goods shoppers now think about their health more than they did before. Hence, this will spur demand for core healthcare products and influence sales in tangential sectors such as food and beverages, and healthcare services.

Offer Mix : Product portfolio adjustment and pricing tactic

Product portfolio adjustment

As living costs, including healthcare costs, are expected to rise, consumers will be more endeavous to try out economical in-house brand products and self-medicate, respectively. Additionally, more consumers understand the helpfulness of vitamins and dietary supplements as preventative measures against environment, diet and age-related ailments such as joint and back pain, immune systems, osteoporosis and lack of balance nutritional values.

The relatively fast growth rate of consumer healthcare sales was not equally spread among in-house brand lines. It should be noted that not all categories saw higher in-house brand growth, as some were mostly dependent on growth by branded products. Within consumer healthcare, in-house brand product line is expected to grow in wound treatment products such as sticking plasters and topical germicidal/antiseptic – Figure 3.0, especially in the midst of an economic slowdown and an influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, respectively. Coupled with strict registration requirements in Malaysia for all medicines, either branded or generics, in-house brand is unlikely to perform well in consumer healthcare categories such as oral analgesics, cough, cold and allergy (hay fever) remedies or digestive remedies as consumers remained largely loyal to established brands mainly because these brands are long-time trusted names that consumers find most effective or have simply grown accustomed to purchasing.

However, consumers will increasingly demand convenient and effective products so as to meet their increasingly stressful and busy lifestyles. Therefore, easy to apply or easy to use products such as Nexcare Acne Patch and Gaviscon Liquid Sachets are expected to attract consumer interest, especially among the younger generation of the population.

Retailers will need to expand their consumer healthcare product ranges in order to maintain competitive in the market. However, retailers should focus on producing lower-cost and in-house branded products such as topical analgesics, antipruritics, other wound treatments, vitamins and dietary supplements, that enjoy strong demand among consumers.

Pricing tactic

Consumers will be shopping around for the best deals. It is not necessary for retailers to cut list prices, but may offer more short termed price promotions, lower quantity threshold discounts, provide credit to long-standing customers, and more aggressively price smaller pack sizes. In tough times, price cuts attract more consumer support than promotions such as mail in offers and sweepstakes.

Promotion mix : conventional advertising and online marketing

Despite the growth of electronic communications, printed newsletter and television still play an important role in Malaysians’ daily life and their pursuit of information and entertainment. As shown in Figure 4.0, printed adspend dominated 54% followed by television adspend at 37% of the total adspend respectively for the year 2009. Major newspapers include three English-language dailies, two Malay-language dailies, five Chinese-language dailies, and two Tamil-language dailies. The Malaysian has a wide range of magazines covering lifestyle, fashion, business, and special interest topics such as fishing, motoring, health and wellness and childcare. Magazines in Malaysia are usually published on a fortnight or monthly basis and are available via subscription, at retail outlets, convenience shops and small grocery stores.

The internet has had a significant impact on Malaysia over the past several years. The number of internet users grew from nearly five million users in 2000 to more than 12 million users in 2007, reflecting growth of 144%. Just as significantly, the household penetration rate of personal computers in Malaysia increased from 13.5% in 1995 to 34.7% in 2007. Tethered with such growth, online adspend recorded 72% spike growth from 2007-2009, and is expected to continue capturing readership share at the expense of printed media, in-line with household penetration rate of internet-enabled computers increases in Malaysia.

Mobile advertising will be in vogue as internet handheld devices gains market penetration, particularly among the younger population. Advertising platforms such as Apple’s iAd is a prime example of cutting-edge mobile advertising where advertisements are not just informative but interactive as well. Advertisements of this kind, can be updated real time by retailers with short-term sales promotion similar to Malaysia Airline’s Lunch-hour flight deals or provide interactive online shopping experience, will revolutionize conventional concept of promotional advertising.

Hence, internet will have an impact on how retailers attempt to reach Malaysian consumers and, in a less significant but nevertheless growing way presently on how Malaysians shop. However, as in most countries, online advertising and internet retailing is expected to increase.


Consumers in Malaysia are changing their healthcare shopping behavior in various ways at times of recession. While many opted for other more economical retailers, there are some who remained loyal to their preferred retailers while reducing the number of trips and spending. They are more comfortable in seeking out deals and using coupons, and will purchase both in-house brands or branded products whichever provides the best value. Definition of value is also changing. Previously, value is often perceived as quality and options, but during recession this is synonymous with price, while moving out of recession, value will mean that consumers get what they want at the best possible price. Pharmacy retailers can capitalize on consumer’s needs by providing increased personalized marketing and shopping experience. Consumers are shifting towards meaningful and unique shopping experience, particularly in purchasing healthcare items.

Consumer in control

Present consumers know are clear of what they want and many will go the distance in search of the best offers, some consumers, due to their lifestyle fluidity simply require products that satisfy their needs. Mobile shopping will be the next frontier for retailers to venture into as on-the-go consumers who emphasize on shopping convenience and speed of transactions. Pharmacy retailers can tap into this market and formulate marketing plans unique to loyal mobile shoppers. Conventional in-store consumers are bombarded with too much product information creating confusion and delaying purchases. Retailers and manufacturers should collaborate to satisfy consumer’s needs such as using attractive colors and creating simplistic product packaging to facilitate consumer’s search for healthcare products.

Retailers diversify and re-brand to stay relevant

Pharmacy retailers diversifying into in-house product line will need to factor in consumer’s shopping preference on established branded healthcare products when formulating in-house product marketing plans. Many consumers maintained loyalty to established brands due to familiarity to a product or confident with its effectiveness. However, in-house branded product line such as wound care, vitamin and supplements are projected to grow due to regional disease outbreak and economic downtempo. New and improve in-house product lines with convenience in mind such as topical analgesics and sachet digestive remedies will appeal to consumers particularly the younger customers. Retailers may need to revamp certain product lines with new design, improve in-house brand offers and a compelling ad-campaign, to appeal to younger consumers.

Future of retail pharmacy

Retail pharmacy landscape is shifting largely attributed to economic changes, the growth of online retailing and more recently mobile commerce. With increasing use of smart handheld devices in Malaysia, mobile advertising and commerce is projected to grow substantially. Retailers will have to employ a multi-channel marketing approach. Online retailing will provide a platform for retailers disseminate unique and targeted product offers for consumers to research, plan their shopping trips and ultimately attract consumers into stores. Once in store, consumers will look for premium service coupled with simplified shopping experience in terms of product availability and ease of locating the products. Now more than ever consumers becoming more sophisticated and informed in making choices. They desire to know the origin of the product, what they are made of and how their lives can be improved with them. In general, future consumer wants a simplified, personalized and meaningful shopping experience with a focus on value.


Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this essay and no longer wish to have your work published on UKEssays.com then please: