Retailers respond to COVID-19: Rite Aid

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During unprecedented times, Rite Aid is living its mission.

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

As the COVID-19 pandemic shutters schools, clears freeways and shuts down entire cities, more than 50,000 Rite Aid associates have found themselves on the front lines of a once-in-a-generation public health crisis.

Heyward Donigan

We’re living our mission — to protect the health of the communities we serve — more resolutely than ever before.

Whether it’s our pharmacists filling vital prescriptions, our front-end associates stocking shelves with critical goods or our distribution center employees ensuring product efficiently flows from suppliers to our more than 2,400 retail locations, I couldn’t be more proud of how our team has gone above and beyond to care for our customers when they need us most.

This matters to us. Rite Aid is the leading retail pharmacy in some of the nation’s COVID-19 hotspots today: Washington, California, New York and Pennsylvania. The work we do will help our communities not only recover, but thrive.

Defending the Front Lines

As part of the White House COVID-19 Response Working Group, Rite Aid launched a coronavirus testing site in Philadelphia serving the first responders and health care workers who are battling this pandemic every day.

This challenge comes at a time when, coincidentally, Rite Aid has never been more focused on providing pharmacy services. We are fortunate to have 6,400 of the most dedicated, tenured pharmacists in America, and they’re functioning as the last-mile extender of our health care system in a defense against an invisible enemy.

Recognizing that, Rite Aid pharmacists have partnered with various pharmacy benefit organizations and local physicians to ensure consumers have access to the medications they need. We’re speaking to customers about options including 90-day refills, early refill authorizations and prescription delivery. To ease the financial burden for customers, Rite Aid has waived home delivery service fees for eligible prescriptions.

In addition to home delivery, Rite Aid offers drive-through service for prescriptions and over-the-counter products at more than half of its locations.

Keeping the SupplyChain Flowing

Most importantly for our customers, our drug supply has held, and we see no short-term challenge in fulfilling vital ­prescriptions.

Elsewhere within the company, Rite Aid has taken an all-hands-on-deck approach to keep high-demand products on our shelves. We recently prioritized a large shipment of hand sanitizer to reach COVID-19 outbreak hotspots. In some instances, associates have picked up items from manufacturers themselves and brought them to stores so they can be there when needed.

We’re waiving penalties for suppliers who, understandably, might need to deliver a smaller shipment than usual. And we’re limiting quantities of certain items in-store and online so all our customers have the opportunity to purchase supplies they need.

In mid-March, as more Americans stayed home to stay safe, Rite Aid, like retailers across the country, experienced a surge in online business. Some days the volume has been tenfold, the highest we’ve seen as a company. We anticipated this, significantly increasing staffing levels to fulfill online orders faster.

Even as we face this challenge, Rite Aid is preparing to launch in mid-April a new RiteAid.com and a new mobile app with improved user experiences, ensuring we’ll be ready to meet the ongoing demand as this situation unfolds.

Our customers can rest assured that Rite Aid associates are doing everything we can to keep the supply chain running so we can provide vital health care services.

Protecting Our Associates

Our stores are essential, our services essential.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our team and our communities like never before, and Rite Aid associates have risen to the moment to care for their families while still serving our communities when they need us most. Indeed our employees have been nothing short of heroes during these trying times.

They’ve shown up, day after day, even as the pandemic creates a significant financial strain for many families, including our hourly associates who work in retail locations and distribution centers. Our company’s moral obligation is to care for them so they can care for our customers.

To help, non-management hourly associates who work in a retail Rite Aid store, RediClinic location or distribution center warehouses received a temporary Hero Pay increase of $2 per hour for hours worked beginning March 15 and through at least the end of April. We’re also providing Hero Bonuses to our salaried store managers, pharmacy managers and salaried pharmacists.

We’re being more flexible with administrative leaves, and Rite Aid’s Pandemic Pay program additionally ensures that associates are compensated if diagnosed with the virus or quarantined because of exposure.

Our stores remain open to assist with health care-related needs. All stores and distribution centers are following enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols designed specifically to prevent the spread of a wide spectrum of viruses, including COVID-19 and ­influenza.

In addition to third-party providers who professionally clean and sanitize Rite Aid stores, the company has increased the frequency at which its associates clean high-traffic surfaces throughout the day. Stores located in high-outbreak areas are receiving special disinfectant services daily.

Rite Aid is also sending “care kits” to all of its associates so they can protect themselves at home, too. We must stay healthy to keep our customers healthy.

Meeting the Challenge

Early on, we made the pivotal call to prepare our corporate and call center associates to work at home so they could stay safe and continue helping our customers.

Just weeks ago, the cafeteria at Rite Aid’s corporate headquarters in Camp Hill, Pa., turned into a de facto training center, filled with laptops and associates learning how to work remotely.

The COVID-19 outbreak has tested the nimbleness of our company like never before. We always knew 2020 would be a year of change for Rite Aid as we evolved the company’s strategy, addressed debt and refreshed our iconic brand.

We never could have anticipated this pandemic; yet, we are ready to meet the challenge.

Rite Aid and its associates realize our place on the front lines. We’re providing critical services for our customers. We’re protecting our associates. And we’re remaining flexible with our suppliers so we can endure this together.

We’re living our mission like never before as we show that we can do good by doing good work.

Heyward Donigan, president and chief executive officer of Rite Aid. 

 


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