Many changes have taken place in the pharmacy and retail sector with large pharmacy chains taking over the market and small independent pharmacies steadily shrinking. Pharmacy chains are successfully expanding in the market through powerful franchise models and economies of scale that are not easy to imitate.
Today, there are over 24,000 points of sale in Mexico, of which SMEs hold 25% of the industry annual sales; pharmacy chains make up for 50%; and the rest is captured by pharmacies at supermarkets such as Wal-Mart, Soriana, Comercial Mexicana, Chedraui, HEB, Sanborns, among others. In 2003, FEMSA bought Farmacias YZA in the Southeast area of the country, and two weeks later it acquired Farmacias Moderna. In 2014, FEMSA further expanded its pharmacy business through the purchase of Farmacón – which had a greater presence in the North – becoming of the largest pharmacy chains owner along with Farmacias Similares, Farmacias GI, Farmacias del Ahorro, Farmacias Guadalajara, and Alliance Boots.
Pharmacy chains’ expansion is therefore driven by acquisitions and organic growth. Some experts believe FEMSA has the potential to open 100 new pharmacies a year as it has more than 12,000 OXXO stores under its control, already resulting in other players reducing their profits margin in order to remain competitive. Alliance Boots acquired 1,030 stores from Farmacias Benavides in 2015, an empire spread across 183 cities and 22 states, whereas Farmacias del Ahorro is aiming to open 260 new points of sale every year and to reach 3,600 points of sales within five years, thereby covering the five states where it does not have a presence. On the other hand, Farmacias GI is capitalizing on a new corporate image and is determined to have 2,000 pharmacies in 2018 – most of them under a franchise model.
Experts believe the pharmacy and retail market in Mexico will be similar to Europe and the US, where few, big players dominate the entire scene and integrate with distributors. In addition, the Mexican pharmacies’ market is very attractive, actively growing, and competing against global players.