Trading Stories: O'Sullivans providing caring service in Cork for half a century

Trading Stories: O'Sullivans providing caring service in Cork for half a century
Sophie Tummon, managing pharmacist, with Michelle O'Brien, staff member, and Taylor-Rose Foley, staff member, in O'Sullivans Pharmacy, South Douglas Road. Picture: Denis Minihane.

When and how did the business start?

We started over 50 years ago in the original O'Sullivans Pharmacy family shop on the South Douglas Rd.

Who started it?

Mrs Catherine O'Sullivan started the business and her daughters Emer and Cliona now run the business today. Having expanded it from one shop to seven.

How have things changed since it first opened, and how has it grown?

Pharmacy has changed so much over 50 years. The industry is highly regulated now and the job entails a lot of administration as well as the pharmacist role. The role of the pharmacist has changed too, for instance, we now can administer the flu vaccine to patients instore.

Customer service and caring for your customers is the one thing that has not changed and what Mrs O'Sullivan and her daughters Emer and Cliona have built their business on.

There are now seven pharmacies in the O'Sullivans Pharmacy chain and are all still owned and run by a local Cork family.

What kind of pressures are on a small chain of pharmacies, compared to a one-off pharmacy or a larger chain?

I think we are in a nice position to be fair. We still have a strong customer relationship with our customers and know their names and their stories, that can often get lost if chains are bigger and in more populated areas. On the other side it is a lot of work managing seven shops and almost 80 employees but extremely rewarding and enjoyable.

Tell us about your locations, and why they were chosen.

We are in seven locations with our new opening on the South Douglas Rd at the end of March 2017. This is our second store, on the South Douglas Rd, next to our original family store. We choose this location for its ease of parking and to facilitate a wider range of the community. As the original shop is on the South Douglas Rd, it was only natural to expand in the surrounding areas. We have been lucky to have the opportunity of having a shop in the Wilton Shopping Centre and Bishopstown now too.

Tell us about the staff.

Our staff are just wonderful. Over the years they have had to under go a lot of retraining of new policies and procedures and even basics like new software and they have taken it all on with a smile on their faces. They are great with our customers going the extra mile to help and look after them. We are very lucky to have such kind, loyal, long serving staff.

What makes your pharmacies stand out from the others?

We have caring loyal staff that the customers have forged a long relationship with so this helps them when they call into us. We are in easy to reach locations, Wilton Shopping Centre, Bishopstown, South Douglas Rd, Frankfield, Grange and Ballinlough. We stock a vast array of products to hopefully meet the healthcare and beauty needs of the locality around us. We also have a delivery service if customers cannot make it to the shop to collect their prescription. We offer a loyalty card service also which allows us to reward our customers for shopping with us. Being a smaller chain we can move quickly to stock new and exiting products both luxury and also budget friendly, to keep everyone happy.

What kind of services do you provide?

We offer a full prescription service We offer free advice on all healthcare & beauty needs.

We offer a free delivery service for anyone in the vicinity of our stores.

We offer a free blood pressure check.

We have a 24 hour blood pressure monitor service in our Bishopstown and Elmwood Frankfield stores We offer a free skincare analysis in our Wilton store with our Consult Tool Machine.

We offer Cholesterol testing in our Bishopstown store.

We offer Food Intolerance testing in some stores.

We offer the Emergency Contraception Pill We offer a Flu Vaccination Service, which is free for many customers What has changed in the industry over the years?

The recession and regulation have hit the pharmacy sector over the years but we see each challenge as on opportunity to do better and to develop along with the industry.

O'Sullivan's Pharmacy, South Douglas Road. Picture: Denis Minihane.
O'Sullivan's Pharmacy, South Douglas Road. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Was the recession tough on the business?

Yes the recession was tough on our industry as it affected our front of shop sales but also affected our dispensary business with cut backs from the government. Even though we are coming out of the recession, we will never recover to the same extent but it just means we need new strategies and new ideas to move forward.

What kinds of customers do you get?

Everyday in pharmacy is so diverse, in one hour you could have comforted someone who has received bad news, dispensed chemotherapy prescriptions, recommended a treatment for nappy rash for a baby, or sold a fake tan for a night out!

We are very lucky that many of our customers are loyal to us and we see them regularly. It is lovely to be able to stop for a quick chat and know the customer you are serving. We also see a lot of transient customers especially with our late opening hours in most stores and we are also open on Sunday in Grange, South Douglas RD, Next to Centra on the South Douglas Rd and Wilton.

How did you get involved in the business?

I started in Pharmacy as a Transition Year Placement when I was 16, I have only worked in one other industry for a year while traveling and then back to pharmacy. That was a long time ago now, lets just say I'm not 16 anymore!

What's your favourite part of it?

I love the customer interaction and I'm lucky to be out in store one day a week where I still meet people. I love that as a company we make a positive difference, I hope, to peoples lives. As for my role, I love being involved on the business side too as it is great to be involved in strategy making and problem solving and implementing change to move the business forward.

What's in the future for the business?

I think for us we will hopefully continue to grow and serve our existing and new customers. Pharmacy will continue to change and evolve as will O'Sullivans Pharmacy with it. I think the future is exciting and positive and we are looking forward to be part of it all.

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