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Top 3 US Retail Pharmacies: Who’ll Capitalize on Consumer Obsession with Health & Wellness?

Note to reader: This is the second installment of our series on how the top retail pharmacies in the US—Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens—are evolving to meet ever-changing consumer demands. When you’re done, check out first installment on new store formats.

Retail pharmacies have long been a one-stop-shop for beauty, grocery and yes, pharmacy. But these days, they look to be strengthening their roots—and just in time. With a global pandemic in our midst and a significant shift in how consumers shop—ecommerce, anyone?—the retail pharmacy redo is vital to their ongoing survival.

Beyond survival, there is opportunity. Wellness is booming. And outside of pharmacy, the broader healthcare segment is stretched to the limits. The American Association of Medical Colleges expects a shortage of 139,000 physicians by 2033. Retail pharmacy locations are uniquely positioned to step into this gap, with locations, expertise and consumer trust.

It doesn’t hurt that the three largest retail pharmacy chains—CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid—are knee-deep in store redesigns. Those designs provide an opportunity to capture new market share while building relationships with return customers. Read on


Pharmacists Build Trust

Perhaps one of the strongest reasons for retail pharmacy’s emphasis on health and wellness is right there at the back of the store, wearing a white coat. Retail pharmacies are leaning more heavily on pharmacists to not only dispense medication but also to provide health and wellness care. At Rite Aid, the pharmacists are now playing a more prominent role in the store itself; its new store design has the pharmacy area moving out of the back corner into a more visible location.

This comes at a time when pharmacists are more vital in today’s overall healthcare ecosystem. According to Inside Patient Care, a journal that covers the retail pharmacy practice, today’s pharmacist now plays an “expanded and team-based clinical role providing patient-centered medication therapy management, health improvement and disease prevention services.” The journal notes that this aligns with Latin American countries, where the pharmacist is often seen as the local doctor, providing insight prior to medication and throughout therapy.

The shift is far from anecdotal. Johns Hopkins Medicine noted that about just over 10 percent of people said they sought health advice from a pharmacist and another study showed that about 20 percent got their flu vaccine from a pharmacist. Of course, retail pharmacy is expected to play an important role in COVID-19 vaccination, as well.


An Expanding View of Health and Wellness 

Drawing in customers seeking the elusive COVID-19 vaccines offers retail pharmacy a prime opportunity to showcase just how much it has changed over the past year in particular, CNBC notes. Each of the three main players has taken a different approach, though all are emphasizing at least one area of health and wellness. CVS is showcasing its role as a health care destination, where customers can get help treating chronic conditions or take yoga classes. Walgreens is opening primary care offices.

CVS’ HealthHUB also has a component that focuses on chronic disease management through its clinical care area. Customers can get help with disorders like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes. It also offers treatment through telemedicine visits.

And yes, as retail pharmacy leaders play a bigger role in healthcare, they are pushing outside of their traditional bricks-and-mortar walls. CVS and Walgreens landed federal government contracts to provide COVID-19 vaccines to nursing home residents and staffs.

Rite Aid has added what it calls “wellness ambassadors,” helping customers find products and provide information on over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements. Armed with iPads, they serve as a bridge between the consumer knowledge and pharmacist expertise. They also play a role in community health fairs, flu vaccine clinics and other community-focused events.


A New Look at Products

The products sold in the store are also getting an increased scrutiny for the role that they play in the customers’ overall health. In its program, “tested to be trusted,” CVS  offers insight into the supplements the pharmacy stocks. The program requires independent testing of all supplements in CVS’ assortment, confirming the accuracy of ingredients and ensuring products are additive-free. Testing is complete on 1,400 vitamins and supplements from 152 brands. Testing revealed that about seven percent of the products failed, leading them to be pulled from CVS shelves.

Walgreens has opted to put its name behind the products it offers, offering a new store-branded pain management gel. Meanwhile, Pharmacists have been trained in devising pain management care. Rite Aid is playing to the wellness angle with more natural products in its stores, offering more products to help customers sleep better or reduce stress. The store also is targeting product that are organic, free from harmful chemicals, are cruelty-free and do not include genetically modified organisms (GMOs)


The Big Picture on Health & Wellness at Retail Pharmacies

Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS’ holistic approach to health and wellness is playing an important role at a time  when the U.S. healthcare system is in crisis. Filling this gap may also solidify their role in the retail sector, providing products and care that Americans have proven they are willing to invest in.

CB4 Insight: With retail pharmacies undergoing dramatic changes, finding the right opportunity is paramount. CB4 helps leading pharmacies find lost sales opportunities and improve customer experience. 


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