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a blog by Chris Barrow

Bestway bid for MyDentist - a tale of two economies

The news that the Bestway cash and carry chain are making a £700m bid for MyDentist will, perhaps, reassure some this morning that there is a future for the business of dentistry, whether NHS or private. Equally, others may be concerned and ask "what does this mean?"

Bestway are already active in the pharmacy sector (having acquired Co-op back in 2014) and have significantly improved the efficiencies of that operation by introducing a wide range of digital patient delivery systems - please note - digital.

Amazon are moving into pharmacy as well.

Health is at the top of our agenda (for all the rotten reasons we are aware of) and healthcare is a sector that is booming.

That includes you.

I can hear some of the audience commenting "tried and failed" and making reference to the experience of Boots, Tesco, Sainsbury, Virgin and others who have toyed with the sector. High street and supermarket dentistry maybe hasn't set any records but it will be interesting to see what happens if the bid is successful and they beat off the other party - the private equity firm who used to own Oasis.

Times, however, have changed (surely there's nobody left who can deny that?) and, as sectors rise and fall as a result of pandemic, there is a new playing field emerging.

Whenever "big business" dominates a health sector (think optical, audiology) there are always boutique alternative players who provide a bespoke solution - more often than not based on standards of customer service, rather than clinical care.

The small independent dental practice will be measured by patients based 80% on their customer service experience and 20% on the quality of their clinical care.

You have to be 100% on the ball with the 20% clinical care - but it's the 80% patient experience that will make the difference.

(As an aside - The Digital Revolution is about improving both).

Your customer service had better be your USP.

My sense that the business landscape is undergoing a revolutionary change has never been stronger.

One of my favourite reads is The Saturday Economist, published weekly by John Ashcroft. I share with you here an extract from last weekend - it's a few minutes read but worth the investment of your time. In so doing, think about your dental business and which economy you occupy - that which is shrinking or growing?

The Tale of Two Economies

"This week, the SMMT reported car sales down by 30% in the past year. Showroom sales were hindered behind lock doors. Marstons, the brewer of Pedigree and Hobgoblin, called for more help for the pubs and restaurant sector.

Mitchell and Butlers, owner of All Bar One and Harvester, is to tap shareholders for funds, to offset the slump in revenue. Chief Executive, Phil Urban called on the government for new support measures, to help hospitality businesses.

Ryanair announced cuts in flights and services, as traffic levels are expected to fall by 80% once again. Restructuring is expected at Paperchase, as PwC are appointed as administrators. The retail chain may claim the title, of the first, but not the last, high street victim of 2021.

Marks & Spencer boss, Steve Rowe, talked of "near impossible" conditions, resulting in clothing sales down 25% in the final quarter of the year. M&S non food retail stores sales were down by almost 50%, offset by 50% growth in online sales. Revenues from food, online and Ocado were able to offset some of the high street damage.

Therein lies the reality of the "Tale of Two Economies". Sector losers during the pandemic have been clothing and retail, travel and tourism, food and accommodation, leisure and entertainment. Sector winners have been, food, online retail and logistics. Online food sales have doubled. The share of online sales overall has increased to over 30%. Digital acceleration online and into cloud, has become the "modus operandi" for all

This week ASOS announced a £90 million investment in a new 450,000 distribution warehouse. Joules and Next reported record sales online. Moonpig is planning a £1 billion flotation within the month. DIY sales, gardening and pets have been additional beneficiaries. Pets at Home, reported a surge in profits as home owners added pets to ease the pain and isolation of lock down.

Streaming has provided exceptional online growth for music and movies. Streaming accounted for 80% of music consumption over the past year. Netflix and Disney have enjoyed a surge in share price as a result of the home entertainment boom. The top seven digital stocks have surged in value by £3.5 trillion over the past year.

Barratt Developments reported record home sales in the second half of the year. New mortgages hit a record high in December. House prices ended the year up over 7% higher. Businesses like Rentokil were able to clean up, as hygiene demands increased. "

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