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Caring for Communities: How the Top 3 Retail Pharmacies Lead the Charge

When Amazon announced they would expand its pharmacy services, analysts called it a warning shot for the top retail pharmacies. Amazon was expected to bring the same type of disruption to pharmacy that it had to books, DVDs, retail and grocery.

Retail pharmacies, however, have an edge on Amazon: they’ve got roots in the communities they serve.

But the pressure is on: As beacons of health and wellness, local communities expect a lot from top retail pharmacies. Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens are deeply committed to delivering on expectations. 

With their heft, these three major retail pharmacy chains are uniquely positioned to play a larger role in their communities, perhaps in a way that smaller chains and independent pharmacies can’t. Here’s what they’re doing to stay more connected to local communities than the competition and leverage those connections for market dominance.


Health Care for All

The pandemic has shined a light on the disparities that plague our healthcare system. It’s no surprise, then, that retail pharmacies are stepping up to improve health outcomes for those who are most in need.

As for Rite Aid, the retail pharmacy credits their customers with helping them give over $100 million to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals over the last 26 years. In the latest push, the 2020 Miracle Balloon Campaign, which ran over eight weeks in 2,400 stores in 18 states, Rite Aid shoppers donated over $1.9 million. These donations fund patient services, critical care, life-saving equipment, pediatric programs, and more at children’s hospitals. All funds stay local to children’s hospitals in the communities and regions that Rite Aid serves.

Meanwhile, CVS also focuses its efforts on supporting organizations already working in this arena. They’ve donated more than $1 million to 49 clinics working to improve outcomes for patients with chronic conditions. But it has laser-focused its efforts in one area: smoking cessation. In 2016, it became the first retail pharmacy to remove tobacco products and has since worked alongside its foundation and the Aetna Foundation to provide education, advocacy, tobacco control. They pride themselves on contributing to a 36 percent decline in new youth smokers since 2016.

Walgreens is working on an underserved area near its headquarters on Chicago’s South Side. There, the pharmacy retailer is launching programs to combat conditions such as asthma, diabetes, pneumonia, and the flu, which have a high local prevalence. Pharmacists consult with patients living with diabetes, providing personalized solutions and recommending screenings and immunizations.


Protecting the Planet

As large retailers, the three top retail pharmacies focus on more than just healthy people—they also work to support the wellness of the world we all live in. For Rite Aid, there’s work to be done in the area of supply chain sustainability. In 2020, the retailer provided renewable power for 49 stores in Southern California. Rite Aid also upgraded lighting in some stores to more energy-efficient LEDs, which decreased annual electric consumption by 24 million kilowatt hours. The company says it will add LED lighting to more than 200 stores each year until the project is complete.

CVS has aligned with several partners to work in a number of areas, including with the Environmental Protection Agency to craft standards for environmentally responsible disposal of prescription medication.

Walgreens has brought its tactics into the store assortment. In early 2020, the company announced a move to reduce the plastic in some of its products. Eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes and compostable tableware were introduced.


Community Involvement

While each of the top three retail pharmacies has thousands of locations, each one operates in a community setting. As such, they are intimately involved at the local level. Each of the three is likely to get involved when a natural disaster strikes. We often think of the obvious destruction that follows a natural disaster, but simple things like access to prescription medication is something we take for granted.  

When two dozen wildfires ravaged California in 2019, Rite Aid’s foundation provided $75,000 to local Red Cross organizations. When a wind storm, called a derecho, hit Iowa in 2020, Walgreens donated to the local Red Cross and allowed customers to round up at the register for even more aid. Walgreens also constantly supports The Red Cross by donating both blood and water to lower operational costs and allow The Red Cross to redirect funds to essential, life-saving services. 

While there are many more examples of these types of involvement, perhaps what is most important is the retail pharmacies’ ability to reopen their doors, helping customers to replace lost medication or what they left behind in an evacuation.

Covid-19 vaccinations are top of mind for everyone lately. Retail pharmacies are jumping in to serve locals and help their communities to get vaccinated as efficiently as possible. Walgreens has created an extensive video series that addresses all the major questions people have when it comes to the vaccine. As an established and credible source on wellness and medicine, it is a simple way to find the answers to common questions and concerns. All three pharmacies as well as Walmart were given doses of the vaccine in mid-February and moved quickly in order to offer vaccinations at as many locations as possible. 

The top three retail pharmacies have multiple growth opportunities and compete aggressively to grow their market share. But they do so recognizing their roles as corporate leaders, driving innovation and improving the communities in which they work.

Unlike some of the sectors that have been disrupted so easily by the mere addition of Amazon, retail pharmacy is poised to hold more of its ground—and perhaps to find greater roles in their communities and the larger healthcare landscape.


CB4 Insight: Retail pharmacies can invest in innovative solutions because they are on solid financial ground. To help keep these stores vibrant and capable of best serving their communities, CB4 helps leading pharmacies find lost sales opportunities and improve customer experience. To learn more about how CB4 can help you watch this short video


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