After announcing their joint venture in July, Alpro Group, the pioneering force behind Malaysia’s largest prescription pharmacy chain, Alpro Pharmacy, and Sugi Holdings, a renowned Japanese pharmacy chain boasting 1,600 stores in Japan, have officially unveiled the first Alpro Sugi Pharmacy in Malaysia. Located at The Starling Mall, a contemporary shopping centre in Petaling Jaya, west of Kuala Lumpur, this Japanese-style drugstore spanning 3,888 sqft marks a significant stride in th
the evolution of healthcare services in Southeast Asia. This establishment goes beyond being a mere pharmacy; it is a comprehensive healthcare destination poised to reshape the well-being landscape in Malaysia. With plans to replicate its success, Alpro Group aims to introduce more Japanese-style drugstores not only locally but also extend its footprint across Southeast Asia, targeting countries like Brunei, Singapore, and Indonesia. The second Alpro Sugi Pharmacy has already opened its doors at Paradigm Mall in Johor Bahru, further expanding the reach of this innovative healthcare model. Both locations will offer a ‘same-day release’ of renowned ‘Made in Japan’ health and beauty products, along with ingenious homecare and baby care items. The state of affairs According to Lee Yin Chen, the chief executive officer of Alpro Sugi, the decision to bring the renowned Japanese drugstore experience to Malaysian consumers is strategic. “Japan is globally recognized for its commitment to health and wellness, and by introducing this shopping experience, we aim to elevate the standard of healthcare offerings available in Malaysia,” he told Inside Retail. He believes the company is addressing a significant gap in the market, as he believes that everyone deserves access to high-quality and affordable healthcare options without the burden of exorbitant costs or inconvenience. “Our commitment to a healthy and vibrant world goes beyond the products on our shelves; it encompasses a holistic approach to well-being that is rooted in the rich traditions of Japanese healthcare,” he added. The strategic priorities According to Lee, the strategic priorities of this new pharmacy concept are centered around delivering an accessible, authentic, and advanced healthcare experience to its consumers in Malaysia. “A key focus is ensuring the availability of a dedicated team of healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, nutritionists, dietitians, health advisors, and beauty advisors, at all times,” he noted. This commitment extends to its ‘same-day release’ commitment for esteemed ‘Made in Japan’ health and beauty products, as well as household items. Lee said this is designed to meet the immediate needs and expectations of its customers, especially urban, working adults, providing them with the latest and most sought-after Japanese products without delay. Additionally, the new pharmacy integrates advanced AI technologies, specifically the ‘Skin Analysis’ and ‘Occu-AI Test’. These services allow customers to proactively understand and address various aspects of their health, spanning from skin health to future health risk analysis. The company is also offering a product liability coverage of up to RM 1 million (US$215,000) for customers. Lee said that its procurement officers, comprising pharmacists and nutritionists, ensure that all products are sourced from reliable providers. The future In Malaysia, the company plans to open three more Alpro Sugi pharmacies. By the first half of 2024, there will be a total of five Japanese-style drugstore outlets, with a third in Kuantan, Pahang, and the remaining two locations are still being planned. “We have received overwhelmingly positive responses from both outlets at Starling Mall Petaling Jaya and Paradigm Mall Johor Bahru. The focus of the expansion of the Japanese healthcare experience across Southeast Asia will be on countries such as Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia, with Indonesia being the first,” he added. Lee went on to say that this collaboration serves as a cornerstone in the company’s strategic roadmap for Southeast Asia. Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on attention to detail and efficiency in operations. “Through this joint venture, we gain access to the expertise and resources of Sugi Pharmacy. The synergy between Alpro Pharmacy and Sugi Pharmacy positions us to deliver not only the highest standards of Japanese healthcare but also to seamlessly integrate the best practices and innovations from both entities to serve the Southeast Asia community,” he noted. A careful process Nonetheless, Lee does acknowledge that adapting the Japanese healthcare model to the Malaysian and Southeast Asian markets is a careful process that involves understanding and integrating local preferences, needs, and regulatory considerations while preserving the authenticity of the Japanese experience. “Cultural sensitivity is our key priority. We recognize the diversity in preferences and healthcare requirements and customize our product offerings to cater to the specific needs of the Malaysian and Southeast Asian markets,” he elaborated. By incorporating these cultural insights, the company ensures that its region-specific offerings resonate with the local population and address prevalent health concerns in the local community. “Additionally, to enhance accessibility and understanding, our products are labelled with English instructions and details. This ensures that consumers, regardless of their language proficiency, can easily comprehend product information, usage instructions, and any essential details,” he said. For consumers residing outside these areas, the company’s e-commerce platform, Alpro One Click, ensures customers can get the entire range of products from the new pharmacy concept. The platform ensures nationwide delivery. “We embrace the digital era by offering an e-pharmacy service. The service is free of charge, accessible nationwide, supported by a team of pharmacists and doctors, ensuring that consumers receive timely and professional advice through virtual consultations,” he concluded.