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Fontana turns to e-commerce for sales growth

Published:Friday | August 29, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Kevin O'Brien Chang, managing director of Fontana Pharmacy. - File

Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter

Having wrapped up its brick-and-mortar expansion, Fontana Pharmacy has turned to the Web to grow its customer base.

The company has launched an online shopping portal, allowing it to tap markets as far away as Australia for consumer items.

Managing Director Kevin O'Brien Chang says his foray into e-commerce is expected to account for "at least 10 per cent" of Fontana's sales within two years.

The first signs of the shopping portal's potential happened a year ago during the Jamaica 50 celebrations, which saw requests for souvenirs from an Australian company.

"We decided, why not just use this to propel the company overall, not just allow people here to shop online but also allow Jamaicans and others overseas to also shop with us," Chang said.

To date, the company remains the only major local pharmacy chain to offer online shopping.

It's unclear how the companies stack up on market share, but Chang now has five stores, located in home base Mandeville, Savanna-la-Mar, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston. The Ocho Rios store is the newest addition, having opened for business in December 2013. It was preceded by Fontana's expansion into Kingston in January 2013 when Chang acquired and later rebranded the operations of haberdashery business, Azmart.

Doing the best we can

Monarch Pharmacy, which has outlets only in Kingston, has also been cited as a top player.

Asked about market standing, Chang said: "I really couldn't answer that. We just try to do as best we can."

Online shopping has led to "a slight uptick in sales since its introduction", Chang said, but would not reveal the actual contribution to revenue.

Fontana's online service allows online shoppers to make purchases locally and have it shipped to the United States, Canada, "or just about anywhere", provided the purchase exceeds US$49.

Some pharmaceuticals are sold through the site, but only to Jamaican addresses, said Chang.

"It's a full-fledged e-commerce website. You can buy from anywhere, from here or aboard. You can buy from abroad and have stuff shipped to you there, or you can buy stuff from abroad and have it shipped to somebody in Jamaica," the managing director said.

Locals may request shipping or can collect their purchases at any of Fontana's locations, Chang said.

Local deliveries are handled by Tara Couriers, while overseas shipments are done by FedEx.

Fontana has had a long-standing relationship with both couriers, he said, extending over five years.