Old-fashioned behind-the-counter service back in style

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2007, 12:00am

In traditional Chinese medicine shops, customers have historically sought advice on treatments for minor ailments or health care from specialists behind the counter, and resorting to doctors was only for more serious problems.

Watsons Your Personal Store has rediscovered the same old-fashioned concept as a modern merchandising initiative for its western-style health and beauty chain expanding across Asia and beyond.

Independent beauty and health advisers are now stationed to help customers select products from a range of offerings best suited to their individual needs.

BMI, fat monitoring and blood pressure tests are provided free of charge to customers at the pharmacies. In addition, an 'Ask your pharmacist' team travels around different stores and neighbourhoods to provide blood glucose and cholesterol tests.

Specific health campaigns are conducted throughout the year, from health tests and cervical cancer vaccines for women, to 'Quit Smoking' competitions, weight management and dietary advice.

During last year's Fifa World Cup in Germany, a poll of women shoppers revealed that they expected their husbands and boyfriends to look more dishevelled, tired and unhealthy during the late-night football frenzy, so the chain came up with a special promotion of discounted products for oily skin, bags under eyes, pimples and dry skin.

Merchandising director Simon Mak Chi-sing said: 'Local men are increasingly conscious of their appearance and skin condition, as proven by our double-digit sales growth in men's products. But the poll of women customers suggested their fascination with the World Cup might prevent them from spending the usual effort on personal grooming. We discounted hundreds of products from our men's personal care range.' Promotions for men have since extended to Father's Day, with specially priced men's health and grooming products such as razors, lingzhi supplements, skin-care gift sets, blood pressure monitors and bath products.

As merchandising extends to devoting more personal attention to customers, there are always openings for health and fitness ambassadors tasked with explaining the benefits of products or pharmaceuticals in the same way that old-fashioned chemists did in days gone by.

'The ambassadors are there to help many customers who like to know more about products before they buy these days,' said spokeswoman Rita Wong.

Across the chain, different qualifications are needed for many other different posts, from store managers and graduates starting as store management trainees to a small army of sales assistants - with experience often compensating for educational background.

'We are always looking for appropriate candidates to join our big family, both in merchandising and operations,' Ms Wong said.