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Retailers respond to COVID-19: Bartell Drugs

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Bartell’s steps up for the community in trying times.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles on how retailers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

For 130 years and counting, Bartell Drugs has always been ready to help the communities it serves in the Seattle and Tacoma area. During this difficult time now, Bartell’s is doing no less than it always has and is working diligently to provide a safe shopping experience for our customers, compassionate interaction with our patients and essential resources for our Northwest neighbors.

Kathi Lentzsch

Always ready to step up when needed and considering the current situation requiring access to essentials and health care, we have added an additional 24-hour location in the most impacted areas of Kirkland and Bellevue. That store, in Bellevue Village, complements our always-open 24-hour location in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, which is typically the only drug store in Seattle that is there for customers at any hour. Beyond those two stores, every store has remained open with the exception of a small pharmacy within a clinic.

Our store and warehouse teams are working tirelessly to support our customers with a record-breaking number of deliveries and units shipping to our stores. Our warehouse is processing and distributing shipments faster than it ever has, and our front-end and pharmacy colleagues are going above and beyond, working overtime to stock shelves, fill prescriptions and deliver genuinely supportive customer service. For the first time ever, our main office staff is working from home to support social distancing while managing our exponentially increasing everyday business needs. Our IT team enabled every main office employee to work securely from their homes. The store development group built cost-effective sneeze guards from scratch and installed them in our stores in less than a week, while our buyers and inventory teams searched high and low for new sources that could keep stores in stock on essentials.

Whether it’s workout equipment, gardening tools, coffee pots, needles and thread, or hammers and nails, our customers have found that Bartell’s can be instrumental in helping them maintain their lifestyle. If you miss your favorite barber, manicurist or aesthetician, the stores offer all the items you need to trim your beard, polish your nails or have an at-home facial. There’s no need to miss out on your favorite chocolate, craft beer or ice cream. Our well-known candy and beverage aisles and our freezers are filled with the best of the best made locally in Seattle. And of course, our over-the-counter products are helping those with allergies or other minor ­ailments.

So, how can our dedicated customers buy our products while they stay at home? Our multiple delivery options have proven to be a lifesaver of sorts for many of our at-risk customers who prefer to stay at home during these high-risk times. We have two-hour delivery with Amazon PrimeNow, which includes spirits and food delivery; 5 star Instacart delivery; and a third party that handles prescription delivery. All of these options have complemented our in-store activity and appear to be incremental, for the most part.

We’ve always been proud of our customer service, and we’re focused on maintaining or legendary service even when times are hectic. Our customers have let us know in little ways how much they appreciate us. One customer delivered homemade masks for the staff at their neighborhood Bartell’s location. Thousands have reached out to tell us how they feel. “Thank you, Bartell’s employees! Outstanding job taking care of your customers. You are truly heroes to many people in the community,” one customer wrote. It’s feedback like this that encourages us to go above and beyond.

Just yesterday, we provided our own Seattle Police Foundation with forehead thermometers to help them monitor their officers’ health. For the seniors who can’t come to the stores and have inadequate income, we are hosting a supply drive to get them the essentials they need. Our customers love our community focus and support us with these types of events.

Most important, our customers have always expected a safe, clean and friendly environment. Bartell’s has implemented further preventative measures to ensure the safety of customers and employees alike. All locations have:

  • Visual reminders for customers and employees to maintain appropriate distance from each other with 6 feet markers on the floor in the aisles and pharmacy and at register queues.
  • Customized pin pad overlays for easy and efficient cleaning.
  • Plexiglass shields at check-out kiosks at the pharmacy and front registers to protect customers and employees.
  • Increased frequency of cleaning and disinfecting for all areas of the stores multiple times per day with high-traffic and high-touch areas a main ­focus.
  • Sanitized shopping carts and baskets cleaned between uses and marked “Sanitized.”
  • Kits for each store employee with masks and gloves.

For 130 years, one thing remains the same at Bartell Drugs. We’re dedicated to our community, and we will be here for our neighbors when they need us most.

Kathi Lentzsch is president and chief executive officer of Bartell Drugs.


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