Retail-ise Your Practice Now or Watch Your Practice Value Slip Rapidly

The imperative for change in UK dentistry is being clearly and noisily telegraphed almost everywhere that matters, you simply cannot ignore the clarion call for change.

After all, you don’t want to end up being one of those ‘open all hours’ corner store owners working your socks off that gets decimated over night by a national convenience retail chain opening up half a mile away.  As the changes, largely driven by consumer behaviour, start to infiltrate our urban areas, the pace of change through out the rest of the country will rapidly increase – there will be a sudden ground swell, not quite a tsunami – but it will feel like a tsunami if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So, what is the noble art of retailing? And more particularly what is retail dentistry?  Retailing is essentially about wrapping service delivery around a product.  In this case the product is dentistry and the service delivery is simply how the customer obtains and experiences that purchase.

Being a great dentist is not enough – in the pioneering days in the wild west being a shop keeper meant you sold supplies, anything from a hat to a hatchet to a ham – all under one roof, that’s not how shops in the west are today.   Your dental practice already has a position in its catchment whether you like it or not – the position will be determined by the history/heritage, the location/catchment, the look and feel of the practice, its competitors and whether it’s an exclusive NHS practice or exclusively private.

For simplicity I suggest that there will be 4 broad service areas or retailing positions for UK dentistry:

  • L1 – Maintenance/ hygiene – perhaps driven by direct access hygiene service –  (NHS & private mix)
  • L2 – Restorative dentistry
  • L3 – Cosmetic
  • L4 – Specialist

However, most of the practices I visit today are a combination of 1, 2 and 3 which means they are providing the dental equivalent of the corner shop, which clearly makes retail standout difficult.  So think carefully and hard about your position and offering before you start building your retail platform.


Retail is about Detail

Having understood and confirmed your positioning and proposition you now need to understand your customer service delivery needs.

There is a very long list to check, but first of all try and putting yourself in the mindset of a first time customer going to buy a new music system.  Where do you start? Google? Talk to pals? Visit to a large retailer or specialist?  Or all 4???

You are desperate for information, but there is a trigger that means you make a selection – understanding how that happens is crucial and it is powered by the following:


Trigger points – for maximum results you need to be great at all of them:



  • The location of the practice in terms of the catchment in terms of the target market you wish to attract
  • The agencies of the practice (what’s on the same street M&S/Semi detached houses etc.)
  • Location in relation to your competitors
  • Opening hours – if you are not open 7 days – you are not a serious retail player
  • Street level / shop front or second floor
  • Transport links, just around the corner from the railway/tube/bus stops
  • Car parking



  • Your signage
  • The look of the building – does it reflect your customers aspirations – would it easily convert to another retail facility?
  • Car parking
  • Cycle parking
  • Your web site


Having activated the trigger, you now need to motivate the new patients to buy:

You only get one chance to make a good first impression – first impression components are:

  • What the new patient sees within the first 30 seconds
  • What they hear
  • What they feel/tactile
  • What they smell

There is a whole area called the ‘theatre’ of retailing, which I will save for another day.

So, can you be a great retailer and a great dentist? Of course you can!

If you would like to ‘retail-ise’ your dental practice please call me and I will help you do it,


t: 0845 299 7209   

Best wishes,

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