In its 22 iU drugstores, the company provides over 10,000 articles from more than 500 different brands in the areas baby, bath and body, beauty, and vitality.
“We have a broad range of products and trained employees who are able to advise our customers in a professional way,” states Sales Manager Bruno Claes. “We also distribute products under our own brand, which provides a less expensive alternative to the renowned brands.”
The Multipharma Group with headquarters in Brussels was founded as a cooperative more than 100 years ago and has grown steadily ever since. Today, the network includes 250 pharmacies all over Belgium, which equals a market share of 8%.
Due to special regulations in Belgium, pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to open new pharmacies in the country. For this reason, Multipharma developed a new strategy to grow further in the country.
“We decided to establish a second network of drugstores, supplying only over-the-counter products such as vitamins, lotions and baby products, but no medication,” explains Mr. Claes. “At the beginning, we focused on dietary supplements, and our drugstores were named Equiform. Five years ago, we repositioned the stores under the name iU. Since then, we have been very successful, and today, we have a total of 22 drugstores in Belgium.”
The iU stores are a great opportunity for the Multipharma cooperative and its two shareholders, P&V Assurance and Mutualité Socialiste. The group realizes an annual turnover of 400 million EUR (tax included), of which 40 million EUR was generated with iU drugstores.
“2013 was an especially good year for iU,” points out the sales manager. “Our drugstores have even profited from the crisis in the pharmaceutical market, and we plan to further expand our portfolio.”
With its iU stores, Multipharma is present in the big shopping centers in Belgium. The next step will be the development of drugstores in shopping streets. The store concepts and designs are identical, and they have a standardized size of about 120 m2. Their range comprises more than 10,000 articles from baby food and care creams to vitamins, makeup and accessories.
Especially when it comes to baby products, iU is the market leader in Belgium. About one year ago, Multipharma also launched an iU online shop, where the products are available 24 hours a day. “Our aim is to accompany our customers whenever possible,” illustrates Mr. Claes. “Customer retention is very important to us. The expansion of our activities is a step in the right direction. I am sure that there is still a lot of potential in the market, and we are well prepared to face future challenges.”