Inside This Issue - Opinion
Chain drug retailers think outside the box
October 24th, 2011
Many drug chains can take justifiable pride in their efforts to rethink the shopping experience. Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp., the Katz Group, Kerr Drug and Lewis Drug are just some of the members of the trade class that have in recent years experimented with store formats as a means of extending their reach and impact.
While much of the work has understandably centered on health and wellness, perhaps the most dramatic departure to date is Duane Reade’s store at 40 Wall Street in New York City. Innovations are evident throughout the outlet, but the most notable features are an upscale beauty presentation that includes many products and services that are not normally found in a drug store, and an extensive convenience food section that encompasses a surprising array of brands and is complemented by sushi and juice bars. With this venture, Duane Reade (which is owned by Walgreens) has truly enlarged the vision of what a drug store can be.
It’s a good thing that openness to new ideas has become the norm among drug chains. Two recent events show that retail innovation is occurring in a number of channels, raising expectations for everyone.
Sephora, the specialty beauty care chain, unveiled its latest take on the shopping experience last month at a store in New York’s Meatpacking District. The 5,000-square-foot outlet, which showcases the retailer’s usual blend of prestige products, outstanding service and interactive shopping, includes a number of new features. In keeping with the neighborhood, the store’s modern design incorporates original work from living artists. The contemporary ambiance is further enhanced by the extensive use of technology, including mobile checkouts, iPads that enable customers to access product information and QR codes for every SKU.
Access to expertise and education is another important part of the mix. At the Beauty Art Studio consumers can get help finding the look that suits them best. Free express services or customized makeup applications can, depending on what a shopper is looking for, be tailored to product type or special occasion.
Many of the concepts that Sephora has deployed in the Meatpacking district were championed by Apple. The death earlier this month of Steve Jobs, the technology company’s founder, prompted an outpouring of tributes comparing him to the likes Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Most centered on his work in personal computing and related sectors, but it should not be forgotten that Jobs had a significant impact on the retail world. Apple is exemplary in terms of store design, consumer education, service, and a seamless blend of brick-and-mortar and online offerings.
In a global economy where products, services and ideas are circulating at an unprecedented pace, it’s clear that drug chains must keep track of developments in a variety of sectors if they want to stay relevant.