Retail News Breaks
Rite Aid's latest format makes wellness its mission
June 22nd, 2011
MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – Just steps inside the entrance, it's immediately clear what Rite Aid Corp.'s newest store prototype is all about.
This week in Mechanicsburg, Pa., the drug chain took the wraps off its eighth "wellness store," a format that makes health care its centerpiece as a wood-grained pathway guides customers directly to the pharmacy area, which is instantly seen upon walking in the front door.
"What we've tried to do is really change the image of the pharmacy," Ken Martindale, Rite Aid's chief operating officer, said Tuesday during a tour of the converted store, which had its final elements put in place the previous night.
To make the pharmacy department more prominent, the wellness format employs lower shelving, brighter lighting and crisp, new signage along with enhanced prescription pickup and drop-off windows as well as a patient counseling room. Martindale noted that unlike in traditional stores, the wellness format doesn't have merchandise stacked on shelves that could impede the pharmacy's visibility.
"When you walk back here into the pharmacy now, it's much cleaner than in other stores and it looks much more professional. It feels almost like a doctor's office," he said.
The format features a station where a "wellness ambassador" can consult personally with customers seeking health and product guidance.
The private consultation room, situated in plain sight of pharmacy customers as they wait to drop off or pick up prescriptions, houses a Rite Aid Online Care kiosk that lets patients interact with pharmacists via a live videoconference. The wellness format also offers expanded clinical pharmacy services, including medication therapy management, diabetes care and a wide range of immunizations.
Martindale pointed out that the format also features hundreds of new health and wellness products. That includes dedicated and/or enlarged sections for organic and gluten-free food and beverages, homeopathic medicine and personal care products, home health care equipment, fitness and workout gear, wellness magazines and books, and pet vitamins. There's also a GNC "store within a store" nutritional supplement department, as well as a refrigerated display showcasing fitness beverages.
On the service side, a "wellness ambassador" walks the aisles to assist customers with any questions on products or health issues. The ambassador totes an iPad tablet computer to provide customers with on-the-spot health or product information. Coupons also can be printed from the iPad via a wireless connection to a printer at the nearby wellness station, where customers can consult with the ambassador. Adding to the store's interactive flavor are Dr. Scholl's custom-fit orthotic and Eye Site vision screening kiosks.
The rest of the wellness store also features some innovations, with products grouped intuitively to reflect the way customers shop as well as to help them quickly locate categories, Martindale said. For instance, there are "his" and "her" areas for personal care items, with a men's grooming section containing shaving, deodorant and other products strategically located just off the main aisle toward the front of the store for speedy in-and-out purchases, he noted.
"We're trying a lot of new stuff," Martindale said.
On top of wider aisles and a new signage package and color palette, the store sports an enhanced cosmetics and fragrances presentation, a women's wellness section, an enlarged cold beverage area, a spacious greeting cards area and a photo center.
According to Martindale, Rite Aid's wellness stores have debuted in only the past few months, with the most recent — aside from the Mechanicsburg store — opening in Newport Beach, Calif. Wellness stores also are in Toms River, Little Egg Harbor and Barnegat, N.J., and in Harrisburg, Greensburg and Pittsburgh, Pa.
"We have another one in Harrisburg [Pa.] that's going to open in another week or two. And we have more coming right behind that," he said.
Rite Aid at this time hasn't set a specific number of wellness store conversions for this year, Martindale explained, but the retailer aims to roll out the format as part of its customer segmentation strategy, in which stores are tailored to better serve the needs of a particular market area.
Still, he added, the format has high growth potential for Rite Aid. "I think this is really our store model for the future," he said.
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