Food for thought is the sustenance of philosophers; food for traffic is the current drug store philosophy.
While it’s true Walgreen has acquired drugstore.com, dropped the Happy Harry’s moniker from mid-Atlantic stores and added to its specialty pharmacies and in-store health clinic rosters, installing expanded food sections in its mainstream stores is what the company has been about for the last year or so. It began with a 10-store test in Chicago that quickly grew into a rollout to as many as 500 stores in cities from coast-to-coast. Walgreen leaned on the pioneering work done by its New York-area Duane Reade subsidiary, whose other innovations include a beer bar in a Brooklyn location and fresh-baked pies keyed to holidays throughout the calendar year.
CVS changed CEOs (Larry Merlo taking over for Tom Ryan) and is once again defending its union with pharmacy benefits manager Caremark Rx, but it, too, is busy taking aim at “food deserts” in metropolitan areas. CVS plans to have groceries and food in 1,500 of its 7,200 stores by the end of this year while adding self-checkout lanes to make quick fill-in shopping trips even quicker.
Rite Aid is also taking a look at what supermarket merchandise might do in drawing consumers into its drug stores. In its toe-in-the-water approach, Rite Aid has spent nearly a year operating 10 stores co-branded with the Save-A-Lot grocery chain in South Carolina markets. The pilot project has drawn positive response from consumers, and the company states that front-end sales in the test stores are about double the chainwide average.