Wendy future of retail top

Duane Reade’s makeover wins suitor

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NEW YORK — Duane Reade would have been much less attractive to a buyer just a year ago. But the past 12 months have seen the rollout of new and remodeled drug stores that bear little resemblance to the chain’s drab older units.


New and renovated outlets sport an updated decor revolving around beauty, health and convenience sections, along with wider aisles and large, uncluttered windows.

And in its boldest departure from the Duane Reade of old, the chain has unveiled the Look Boutique prestige beauty department, elevating the merchandising of cosmetics, fragrances, and skin and hair care products to the level of department stores.

By the end of this year up to 60 units will have the new look and feel. The change is “revolutionary, not evolutionary,” executive vice president and chief marketing officer Joe Magnacca said late last year.

No one should understate how different Duane Reade has become from its competition, Magnacca added.

Before new management put its stamp on the chain starting in 2008, the retailer’s stores were taken for granted as convenient, if not particularly inviting, locations for busy New Yorkers in need of an item or two.

These days Duane Reade is becoming known for its striking presentations and such distinctive elements as physician-staffed, walk-in health clinics. And the transformation of the outlets has been taking place in both business districts and residential communities.

At the core of the reinvention of Duane Reade are three merchandise groupings with corresponding slogans and colors: a blue health (“How I feel”) section, a mauve beauty (“How I look”) department and a green area devoted to daily living in New York City (“What I need now”).

And going hand in hand with Duane Reade’s physical changes has been a focus at the store level on organization, discipline and service.

The sharper operations have won over consumers, who have voted with their pocketbooks. It’s not surprising that shoppers have embraced the new approach because it was developed from consumer focus groups, Magnacca noted.

While the chain has obliged the wish of customers for more attractive stores, it has hardly neglected their demand for convenience. The retailer’s tagline, “New York living made easy,” serves as a filter for every initiative it launches, said Ma­gnacca. The realization that New Yorkers tend not to cook, for instance, led to the launch of the DR Delish line of foods and beverages, including sandwiches and salads.

Every time the company remodeled or built a store, it concentrated on another area of the business, whether it was beauty or food or skin care. The focus on excellence in one area at a time and the resultant storewide enhancement was highly satisfying for employees, Ma­gnacca remarked.


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