Belgian online pharmacy Newpharma has inaugurated a new distribution centre in Liège. The acquisition by Colruyt Group, last year, has raised its ambitions – both domestic and abroad.
Robots ease staff shortage
The new distribution centre measures 20,000 sqm, with a maximum possible expansion size of 50,000 sqm. Forty employees have already been hired, but the distribution centre is also strongly committed to automation. A third of the stock is on pallets that robots bring to the order pickers when an order needs to be prepared. Perhaps that robotised area will expand later: “Automation and robotisation should enable Newpharma to continue its long-term growth”, general manager Gilles Jourquin adds.
Newpharma has already grown to serve 4.6 million customers, 42 % of which are in Belgium. France accounts for 36 %, but that share is growing strongly. The Dutch market is fairly stable at 12 %, Jourquin says. In total, Newpharma sold over 47,000 different references in 2021. The Colruyt Group has invested 17 million euros in Newpharma last year, and also owns the distribution centre – which Newpharma now rents from them.
Towards a Colruyt ecosystem
Post-pandemic, there are much less tensions with pharmacists as online consultations and digitisation were suddenly encouraged, Jourquin observes. The business is now booming, and it could have closed last year with a profit. However, the pharmacist chose to invest in marketing. It may be the market leader in the French speaking part of Belgium, but in the North, big rival Farmaline is number one. “If you see that our growth is now strongest in Flanders, that was the right choice”, Jourquin says.
With the acquisition, Colruyt wants to close the circle. The group aims to create an ecosystem with diverse concepts and brands in the field of health and well-being. Newpharma should thus exchange synergies with fitness chain Jims and the Smartwithfood app. And with the group’s biggest part, the eponymous supermarket chain as well: up to 300 Newpharma references will be available in all Colruyt shops. Orders can also be picked up in the supermarkets, and other commercial collaborations will follow.
“Society and people are evolving, we want to create value in that”, group CEO Jef Colruyt says. “We want to be there for people with three core pillars: ‘simplify’, ’empower’ and ‘connect’. They know they can find the latest prices with us (simple), get the right and transparent product information with smartwithfood (empower) and that we make it possible for people to deliver groceries for each other via Collect&Go (connect), for example.”
Newpharma CEO Gilles Jourquin is one of the speakers on the excellent programme of the RetailDetail Night on 24 November. The end-of-year event for the retail sector is celebrating its tenth anniversary, so it will be an extra festive edition in a unique location. Tickets can be ordered via the button below.