chemist's shop

Dispensing chemist

A dispensing chemist, in British English and (to some extent) Australian English, or pharmacist in North American English is a professional allowed to fulfil prescriptions.

A dispensing chemist will usually operate from a pharmacy or chemist's shop, usually abbreviated to "the chemist's" in English speaking nations, especially the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. The United States and Canada use the term drugstore or pharmacy.

It is possible for a shop to be a general (non-dispensing) chemist without the ability to fulfil prescriptions. In such cases, only Over-the-counter drugs and medications may be supplied, as these do not require the services of a licensed pharmacist. Such shops will also usually supply a wide range of health related goods.

The first drugstores were opened by Muslim pharmacists in Baghdad in 754, while the first apothecary shops were also founded by Muslim practitioners.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom the market for dispensing chemists is split between independent retailers and large chains. The best known chain is branded "Boots". John Boot opened his first shop in Nottingham, England in 1849. His son Jesse transformed into a national chain. In July 2006 it merged with another chain of dispensing chemists, Alliance Unichem to form Alliance Boots. Another chain in the UK is Lloydspharmacy. Supermarkets have an increasingly significant role in the sector, either directly or by renting out space to a specialist chain on a Concession (contract) basis.

There were other chains of dispensing chemists in the UK. One well known regional one, covering much of the south of England was Timothy White (later Timothy White & Taylor Ltd), founded in Portsmouth. It was taken over by Boots in 1968, who briefly retained the brand for a chain of kitchenware shops. The dominance of the chains in the market was so high that saying "I'm just going to Boots" or "I'm just going to Timothy White's" as dialogue in a novel, play or TV series would be immediately understood that one was going to the chemist's, with no further explanation being necessary. For example, references were made to Timothy White's in episodes of the UK TV sit com "Dads Army" and in the Monty Python's Flying Circus TV series ("Timothy White's suncream").


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