Ungarn
Budapest, Hungary

All in the family

THE PHARMACY, ON THE EDGE OF BUDAPEST’S CITY CENTRE, HAS BELONGED TO MÁRIA SZAKVÁRY AND HER SON GÁBOR LUKÁCS FOR JUST EIGHT YEARS.

Yet they have already had an eventful time. Fortunately, the proprietors are now happy to tell the story of their pharmacy as revenue has doubled in the past three years, customer traffic is growing steadily and the numbers add up.

This is the happy end to an adventure that started in 2010. That was the year the son, Gábor graduated with a pharmacy degree. Together with his mother Mária, also a pharmacist, he wanted to set up an independent business. As it is virtually impossible to open a new pharmacy in Hungary, they had to buy an existing business. They found a pharmacy in a shopping centre – it was certainly not well managed, but they were confident they could turn it around.

The rude awakening came after they signed the contract. The accounts were inaccurate, the debts were too high and there was no money. The resulting crisis affected them professionally and personally, as relatives had lent them money for the purchase. “It was a real strain on the family,” says Mária Szakváry.

They discussed and deliberated and came to the conclusion that failure was not an option. In the restructuring, they focused first on the stock. They wanted to increase the number of products they carried which, in their situation, was a difficult task. Stock ties up money, and money was in short supply.

Together with their wholesaler, they came up with a strategy. Their assigned distribution manager at PHOENIX Pharma Hungary advised them on how to solve their problems. He also managed to alleviate the financial pressure. The effort paid off, and two years later the pharmacy was out of the woods. Mother and son were able to breathe easy. “PHOENIX saved us,” says Mária Szakváry. However, it is difficult even for profitable pharmacies to succeed over the long term in the competitive Hungarian market. How do you manage to get customers to come to your pharmacy instead of going to the competition? Perhaps a well-known brand could act as a magnet.

PHOENIX saved us.

Gábor found the solution in the BENU pharmacy chain, which is also part of the PHOENIX group. Not only does it operate its own branches in Hungary, it also has a franchise system. Independent but able to enjoy the benefits of an international chain with thousands of branches? Not a bad idea. In addition, the colours, styles and design matched up exactly with what his mother and he had envisaged. In 2014, they affiliated themselves with BENU. They became the eighth BENU franchise pharmacy in Hungary; today there are more than 100.

The outdated retail space has been converted into a modern pharmacy with plenty of light and a welcoming atmosphere. BENU experts suggest products that are well received by customers and where they should ideally be placed to maximise sales. During the renovation, they advised on details like accessibility. Strollers can now be easily brought inside, attracting young parents into the pharmacy.

Business is booming. There is much to do. The pharmacy needs more staff. Until the new positions are filled, the owners are benefiting from the flexibility of a family business. At 68 years old, Mária doesn’t want to stop. That is absolutely fine with her 40-year-old son. He has two children – a five-year-old and a sevenmonth- old. Occasionally he has to take time off without notice, so he is grateful that his mother is able to help him out at work.

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