A new Unichem pharmacy in Botany has been purpose-built to cater for its local community of Chinese New Zealanders. We chatted with pharmacist Tina Chou about customer services and diversity.
Unichem Ti Rakau opened its doors for the first time on June 18. Its official opening ceremony a few weeks later had a strong Chinese flavour, featuring dragon dancing, a Chinese blessing and speeches made in Mandarin.
The 679sqm store is the largest in the Green Cross Health network, and is adjacent to the Botany Town Centre shopping centre. It’s got everything customers need, says Chou – easy parking, high ceilings and wide aisles which give it a sense of space, and a serious focus on natural health.
More than 60 percent of the store is dedicated to natural health products, from skincare to supplements. It stocks brands not previously sold at Unichem or Life Pharmacy stores, and is part of a move by Green Cross Health to meet huge customer demand for natural health products and remedies.
Green Cross Health chief executive Grant Bai told NZRetail magazine in June that natural health is the company’s fastest-growing category, and it’s the top-selling category across both the Unichem and Life Pharmacy brands.
“Everyone wants to go healthier, for more natural products, and that includes skincare,” Chou says.
The pharmacy also includes bestselling tourist-focused natural products, such as Merino-branded and Wild Fern skincare. Bee products and fish oil are popular with yourists, although local customers also buy them. Chou says this type of range is popular with locals heading overseas to visit family in their home country and wanting to offer them a signature product.
Unichem Ti Rakau’s abundant space means it can handle a high staffing level. Ten staff work for the business – Chou says she likes to have enough staff in place to have them greet each customer individually. They often promote herbal teas by offering browsing customers a taste, and also offer services such as hand massages and perfume testing.
The diverse cultural heritage represented by the staff means Chou can support her customer base with staff who speak Vietnamese, Tagalog, Cantonese and Mandarin. Older customers, in particular, appreciate the opportunity to discuss their medications in their native tongue.
“It’s very comforting to tell them that we have a Chinese-speaking pharmacist here at all times,” Chou says.
Chou is involved with the Chinese New Settlers Services Trust, and held the first of many workshops for it earlier this month. In the workshop, she used her language skills and healthcare background to help recently-arrived Chinese immigrants understand what to expect from New Zealand’s healthcare system.
She also offers flu vaccination promotions to local businesses, and wants to start interacting with local rest homes: “There’s just so much we can do in this community.”