Interview: Guillaume Melin – Pharmacie Val d’Europe (Apothical)

Hello Mr Melin, can you briefly introduce yourself.

Who are you ? What is your professional background?

I have been a community pharmacist for six years now. I studied at the Paris V-Descartes faculty of pharmacy in the 5th arrondissement of Paris and subsequently attended a business school at the same time: the IAE Sorbonne. I followed the “Manage, Create and Take Over a Business” training there. After that, I took private lessons in salary management with a management controller, thanks to the FEEP* Aginius organization.

I already worked in a pharmacy during my student years. Once I graduated, I worked for three years at the Bader pharmacy, in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. It’s a big pharmacy; it works half on prescriptions, and half thanks to Parisian tourism. I then spent three more years at the Monge Notre Dame pharmacy, in the 5th arrondissement . I started there as a manager and then became store director and manager of the drugstore.

In November 2020, I bought this pharmacy (the pharmacy where I am currently) in Val d'Europe. It was part of the Forum Santé group and when I bought it, I moved to the Apothical concept . I then changed groups, did restructuring and rearrangement work and brought in many new ranges. It is a very: “core business” pharmacy; I had 85% prescriptions for 15% drugstores, which is quite atypical as a ratio for a pharmacy in a shopping center.

I started expansion work in August 2021 and, on this occasion, I created a real drugstore center in which I suggested to Julie to install a custom-made “Exertier” piece of furniture, in my premium drugstore corner!

Apothical storefront

Awesome !! We can not wait to see it !

You have been in Val d'Europe since November, a little less than a year ago. You've done a lot in a short time and have therefore settled in the middle of the Covid period... So are you okay? Are you doing well ?

(Laughs) Yes yes, it’s okay! In this case, as I told you, I have a fairly high prescription turnover ratio so, even during the COVID period, people came to pick up their prescriptions. Even if it was not a very prosperous period, it was not a disastrous period for pharmacy as it may have been for others. And then, as you also said, I made a lot of changes: work, modifications in terms of work organization, a change of robot, … all that takes time. I had to accompany the teams, I wasn't bored!

You are part of the Apothical group. Can you tell us in a few words what the main values ​​and philosophy are?

Apothical is a group of independent pharmacies, there are no backed investment funds, which means that these are people who own their pharmacy, and for me that was an important point. We all share a common vision but each one is free at home.

These are pharmacies which focus on naturalness with many offers in organic and natural cosmetics, and which seek to offer a truly qualitative offer. We reference many French ranges, committed to clean beauty , natural and eco-responsible. Ultimately, everything French customers are looking for today! It’s an increasingly informed and demanding clientele – and rightly so. There is a real demand and Apothical 's objective is of course to respond to it.

We also try to respond to all the new demands of our customers, whether it concerns cosmetics, dietetics or health; our objective is to offer an expert and differentiating service. There is ongoing training offered for all employees of all Apothical pharmacies . We have platforms that offer monthly training on products that we can recommend. The objective is to promote this aspect of the group's pharmacies: strong commercial dynamics, a very large choice, regular promotions and a wide variety in terms of price ranges. This is initially why our customers come to us, but it is our ability to offer an experience different from what they can see elsewhere that keeps them coming back. This is where the Apothical group plays an important role: the group's desire is to differentiate itself from the traditional form of French pharmacy by offering innovative ranges for which ethics are important, accompanied by expert advice for their well-being. .

If I chose Apothical, it is also because it is a close-knit family, which places great importance on human values ​​– and this is rare enough to be appreciated!

Obviously, the fact that a powerful group such as Apothical can be taken into account allows us to obtain favorable commercial conditions and thus, offer the most attractive price possible for our customers.

How do you perceive the arrival of naturalness and clean beauty in pharmacies?

For me it's the logical progression of things. Obviously, everyone has a wallet and everyone is careful with their spending, so it makes sense that people are careful about the prices of the goods they buy. However, information circulates better and better and consumers are more and more informed and concerned. I firmly believe that this is absolutely not a trend. I simply see a change in consumption patterns. We are aware of the impact on the environment, on the planet, on the quality of life and on the health of what we consume. As a result, customers are more selective about the products they can use. This affects food, waste management, and it is inevitably valid for cosmetics as in all these other sectors! I am firmly convinced that this is a field that has a future simply because it meets people's expectations. It seems to me that this is a lasting change, it is logical and that is so much the better.

It's a change that we find in several sectors as you said, in food, in textiles, in fashion, all sectors are taking this turn and in fact we can think (we really want to think !) that it is because there is a real thoughtful and conscious demand from consumers.

Absolutely, it is a sector which is growing in all distribution channels and I am convinced that a distributor, whoever they are, must adapt to their customers and not the other way around. If it is a sector that is growing in all areas it is for good reason. Customers make real, fully informed decisions. Our role then is to provide a satisfactory and reassuring response as well as to offer the possibility of choice in this sector.

This is why, beyond the drugstore, I planned to create a complete corridor dedicated to natural and organic products.

Apothical Interior

What is your story with Exertier and its founder?

I met Julie when I worked at Monge: it was Bruno Mansouraty, the manager at the time, who put us in touch. Julie had set up several things with Bruno. She first established the brand in the pharmacy. Exertier greatly appealed to the clientele of the 5th arrondissement of Paris, a very informed clientele with (once again) high standards. A real Parisian clientele! Then, it allowed many players in French cosmetics to spend a month in a pop-up store within the drugstore: the “French Beauty Lab”. It was in this pop-up store that Julie and I met and things immediately worked very well between us.

Then, when I took over the pharmacy in Val d'Europe, she contacted me to offer to reference Exertier. Of course, at the very beginning of the adventure, it is not easy to introduce a range as we lack space, but I managed to integrate Exertier into my offer because I was already attracted by the brand. And our customers share my opinion! The products are popular and we are gradually developing a loyal clientele to Exertier. These are premium products in terms of quality, but the prices remain very affordable. Many people are willing to put a little more into their cream when they are convinced of its effectiveness and convinced of the safety of the product.

Exertier, for me and for clients, ticks all the boxes. Even though, at the moment, the products only occupy three shelves in the pharmacy, they are in high demand among customers. It is for this reason that I suggested to Julie, as part of the drugstore work, to create a custom piece of furniture and to do a complete descent of Exertier in the colors of the brand. I hope that the brand can shine in the premium universe that is being created, that it will be a great showcase for Exertier and great referencing for the pharmacy.

It's really super ! You have already answered a little in part, but how does Exertier value your advice to your customers, what do you think is its added value for you as a distributor?

For customers above all, quality, safety and the pleasure of using the product. Our customers come back quickly for products, so it’s good that they are convinced. It is a brand that is not found everywhere and which stands out for its strong ethical commitment. These are positions that speak to people and that appeal to them.

Then for the BtoB (Business to Business) aspect, it is a range which offers excellent monitoring. Nina, the salesperson with whom I speak monthly, presents the new products to me and she supports the teams on sell-out (sales). Training is very important to us. It's not all about putting a product on the shelves; the teams still need to master it and advise it as best as possible. This qualitative support is really important in my opinion!

And then, even if it’s not always easy to talk about numbers…

Yes Yes ! It’s necessary, it’s the crux of the matter!

Exertier is a high margin brand! So it's differentiating, profitable, qualitative, with real follow-up of the sell-out, it's not simply " filling the shelves with products and then they come out as they come out "

No, these are high turnover products for several reasons. Firstly through the great support, then thanks to intelligent price positioning and finally thanks to a strong margin therefore generating EBITDA for the company. Clearly there is no need to ask the question for me: We must bring in Exertier!

We agree (laughs)

Unless you are a pharmacy near me in which case you should not do it! (laughs)

Exertier and Guillaume Melin is a story that runs then?

Completely, it’s even a business that’s taking off. It doesn't roll, it flies!

In my eyes, a long-term partnership is what I value most.

I have a lot of hope for the brand. Both in its capacity to develop and in its ability to meet consumer expectations. I am deeply convinced of the development of Exertier within the Apothical Val d'Europe pharmacy.

I even think that a partnership between Apothical and Exertier via Véronique Duché Orillard, the CEO (General Director) of Apothical can totally be imagined!

I think it would be in the continuity and positioning of the group, but I am not the right person for this conversation.

Thank you Guillaume!

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