Robbie Toan, founding director of online Cheshire-based pharmacy Assured Pharmacy, which specialises in men’s embarrassing health treatments, is stockpiling medicines to avoid potential Brexit-related supply problems and it’s taking its toll on cash flow
Have you been impacted by Brexit or are you preparing for its impact?
We have not been directly affected by Brexit, but we are preparing for it and that is costing us. We are having to stockpile medicines. We have stockpiled 1.5 million Viagra tablets, for example, whereas we would normally hold 500,000 and that has had an impact on our cash flow. We have 125,000 patients who are regularly ordering Viagra. It is a serious condition, some might joke and laugh about it, but people come back to us on a weekly and monthly basis to get regular medicines. Our whole business is based on repeat prescriptions, so if people can’t get it from us they are going to go elsewhere and we’ve lost that patient forever. We’re stockpiling because we can’t risk running out.
At what point did you realise that you would have to begin stockpiling?
Being brutally honest, I hadn’t really thought through all the implications of Brexit, but about nine months to a year ago I started reading about three articles a day about what could happen to the industry. I don’t know how much of what I read is true or just scaremongering, but all I care about from a business perspective is making sure that I have enough supply to send to people. That’s my job because the buck stops with me.
So how have you funded the extra stock and presumably additional costs for storage?
We haven’t had to take out any loans, because we’re quite a profitable business. What it means at the moment is that we’ve had to cut dividends to shareholders. We’re in the fortunate position where we can afford to do that. Cash flow is a concern though. Holding £500,000 worth of stock for a business of our size is not the norm. In the pharmacy industry, you shouldn’t be holding anything more than a month or six weeks of stock and we now have about seven months of stock. We’ve had to expand our storage facilities for it too, which has cost us an extra £25,000 a year.