The government has signed a decree removing restrictions on the distance selling of drugs through marketplaces. This will allow small pharmacy chains to place their products on the partner’s site. Pharmaceutical market experts as a whole positively assess the initiative, but believe that it will bring revenue growth mainly from the non-drug assortment.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree allowing pharmacies to place their products on marketplaces. The document is awaiting publication on the government’s website, two sources in the market told Kommersant. The decree also lifts the restriction on the sale of OTC drugs by chains that have less than 10 outlets or do not have their own Internet resource for ordering and paying for goods. The government requested such an opportunity by the Association of Internet Trade Companies (AKIT, includes Ozon, X5 Retail, Wildberries). “Kommersant” has a copy of the appeal.
The signing of the decree will enable small pharma retailers to increase their client base, primarily due to the non-medicinal assortment (dietary supplements, parapharmaceuticals, cosmetics), believes Sergey Shulyak, CEO of DSM Group.
Nevertheless, the interest of pharmacy chains in such a partnership will depend on the cost of marketplace services, adds Mr. Shulyak.
Over the past year, Roszdravnadzor issued 267 permits for online drug trade, the department said. For five months of 2021, 94 more permits were issued. At the same time, in 2020, the service refused permission to 196 applicants, in 2021 – 47. The reason for the refusal in Roszdravnadzor was the provision of incorrect or incomplete information by pharmaceutical retailers. In AKIT, the refusals were linked to the applicant’s lack of a website. The president of the association, Artem Sokolov, believes that the organization of delivery turns out to be unprofitable for pharmacies and they only provide a reservation service. “Pharmacy online stores have few orders and low traffic on the site, since they can only represent their own limited assortment,” adds Mr. Sokolov.
The market and the number of players in the online drug trade is growing. According to DSM Group estimates, in the first quarter of 2021, the share of drugs ordered on the Internet amounted to 7.9% (a year earlier it was 6.1%). “It should be borne in mind that this also includes online booking of medicines for purchase at a particular pharmacy,” explains Sergei Shulyak. This service was also available before online trading was approved. According to representatives of pharmaceutical retailers interviewed by Kommersant, it is still more in demand, since consumers often need both OTC and prescription drugs, and the sale of the latter online is now prohibited.
The accelerated development of online retail, fueled by the pandemic and the successful IPO of Ozon, and increased competition in the market are forcing marketplaces to aggressively reduce commissions for their sellers. Although companies continue to burn significant funds in the hope of strengthening their positions and do not yet promise sky-high profits, they still find new sources of income in addition to commissions on goods – this is how a variety of promotion tools, paid broadcasts and new niches, such as services, appear. However, the most serious source of income for marketplaces can be fintech services, for which large players are already buying banks.