The nation's largest drug chains were among the top retailers cited by consumers in terms of shopping for groceries, fresh meals and other items from a nontraditional source, according to a survey by King Retail Solutions.

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Poll: Drug chains cited as key grocery, meal outlets

February 14th, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. – The nation's largest drug chains were among the top retailers cited by consumers in terms of shopping for groceries, fresh meals and other items from a nontraditional source, according to a survey by King Retail Solutions.

Walgreens was cited in the survey as one of the top nontraditional outlets where people buy groceries and fresh prepared foods.

The retail design firm said Friday that the fall 2013 poll of over 1,200 Millennial, Generation X and Baby Boomer consumers, done in tandem with the University of Arizona Center for Retailing, revealed that store categories are blurring amid evolving shopper attitudes about where they will buy groceries, fresh meals, clothing and services ranging from haircuts to health care.

Specifically, shoppers were asked about their behavior and decision making in purchasing these items from nontraditional sellers — for example, buying a fresh meal from a drug store or getting a flu shot from a supermarket.

In terms of buying groceries at outlets that aren't grocery stores, the top five retailers named by shoppers were Target, Walmart, Walgreens, CVS/pharmacy and Costco. Rite Aid came in at No. 12. Also cited by consumers were Dollar General (No. 6), Dollar Tree (No. 8), Kmart (No. 10) and Family Dollar (No. 13), along with leading convenience store chains.

Seventy-seven percent of shoppers said they bought groceries from a nongrocer in the previous 12 months, and 96% said they would do so in the coming 12 months. Fifty-two percent of people reported they buy groceries from a nongrocer more than once a month. After cost, convenience and quality were cited as key factors for shopping these venues.

Of the items purchased from nongrocers, shoppers cited canned/boxed groceries (59%), dairy (54%), bread (49%), fresh fruit and vegetables (42%), frozen (38%) and meat (22%).

Among nongrocer outlets named by consumers, 66% said they purchase groceries at big-box stores, followed by convenience stores (43%), drug stores (30%), dollar stores (30%) and discount stores (7%).

The study also found that in the previous 12 months, 24% of shoppers made a grocery list that they intended to fulfill entirely at a nongrocer. Of those consumers, 79% did so at a big-box store, 25% at a pharmacy, 18% at a dollar store and 7% at a convenience store.

Age was a key indicator of willingness to buy groceries at nontraditional grocery outlets, according to the survey. For instance, 47% of Millennials said they buy groceries at a drug store, compared with 37% for Generation Xers and 36% for Baby Boomers. The demographic most likely to purchase groceries at a drug store is urban, male Millennials, 49% of whom said they've do so.

Fresh prepared foods are one category where drug chains in recent years have expanded their offerings, particularly with grab-and-go items such as sandwiches, salads and ready-to-eat meals. And the results of King Retail Solution's survey indicate that these efforts are bearing fruit.

Of places where people buy fresh prepared food that aren't restaurants, drug stores were named by 9% of shoppers polled. The leading non-restaurant outlets for fresh meals were supermarkets (74% of consumers), big-box stores (44%) and convenience stores (28%). Quality was cited as the top factor, followed by cost and convenience.

And of the top 20 non-restaurant outlets where people said they like to buy fresh prepared foods, Walgreens came in at No. 14, and CVS/pharmacy was No. 16. The top five were Walmart, Target, Costco, Safeway and Kroger.

"It can't all be about one-stop shop, but if it's a retailer they appreciate, they are going to shop there. And if new, nontraditional items are available for sale, they are going to buy those items," Andrew Swedenborg, executive vice president at King Retail Solutions, said in a statement. "Expanding what you sell is only a part of the equation. Delivering a valuable shopping experience is the real challenge."

In terms of buying apparel at a non-clothing store, 13% of shoppers said they do so at drug stores. Eighty-one percent reported they buy apparel at big-box stores, followed by dollar stores (15%) and convenience stores (4%). Of the top 10 non-clothing stores where people said they buy apparel, Walgreens was No. 4, CVS/pharmacy was No. 7 and Rite Aid was No. 8. The top three were Target, Walmart and Costco.

The study defined services as nontangible purchases such as pedicures, oil changes, massages, haircuts, and health exams and treatments. Of venues that aren't traditional service providers, big-box stores were cited by 52% of consumers as places where they buy services, followed by drug stores (32%), department stores (14%), supermarkets (14%) and convenience stores (11%).

According to the survey, the top 10 places where shoppers buy services — that aren't traditional service providers — were Walmart, Walgreens, Target, CVS/pharmacy, Costco, Sears, Rite Aid, Sam's Club, Fry's and Kroger.