Store experience reimagined by Duane Reade

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Duane Reade, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2010, is a fixture on the retail scene in New York City.

For most of its history, the company had the chain drug sector here pretty much to itself, building its presence with a scrappy brand of retailing well suited to the special characteristics of the market.

With an emphasis on the front end, Duane Reade learned to tailor its product mix and stores to meet the requirements imposed by a unique set of demographic and real estate realities. Sales and customer counts were enviable, but the stores themselves were never in the vanguard.

Now that’s changed. Under the management team assembled by John Lederer, who became Duane Reade’s chairman and chief executive officer in March 2008, the company has taken its traditional New York orientation and melded it with cutting-edge retail concepts that touch every part of the store.

The results of that initiative have enabled the drug chain to reassert itself after an extended period when the rapid expansion of Rite Aid, CVS Caremark and Walgreens in New York put it on the defensive in its home market.

Anyone who doubts the extent of the transformation at Duane Reade should visit its newest outlet, a two-level drug store at Broadway and 36th Street in Manhattan. The ground floor is given over to convenience food, beverages and household products; the upper level to more traditional drug store categories, including pharmacy, health and beauty aids, and greeting cards.

Departments throughout the store are distinguished by the caliber of the merchandise and service — the consumables mix includes fresh and prepared food, while the staffed beauty section features brands normally found only in department and speciality stores, and an in-store clinic run by a physician is adjacent to the prescription counter — as well as the quality of the product presentation.

The 14,000-square-foot outlet, which is open round the clock, boasts spacious aisles, attractive fixtures that don’t interfere with sight lines, and abundant natural light.

The guiding principle behind Duane Reade’s approach to store design and merchandise selection is the need to listen and respond to customers, according to three of the executives most responsible for the rejuvenation of the drug chain — senior vice president and chief merchandising officer Joe Magnacca, senior vice president of pharmacy operations Frank Scorpiniti and acting chief marketing officer Joe Jackman.

During a recent tour of the new store they pointed out that everything on offer addresses one of three concerns that Duane Reade customers look to the retailer for help with: “how do I feel,” “how do I look” and “what do I need now.”

In working to retool its brand around the concept of “New York Living Made Easy,” Duane Reade has emerged as one of the chain drug industry’s standard-setters.


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