Lupin 2023

With 7,000th store, CVS has ‘healthy pipeline’ of new pharmacies

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LITTLE CANADA, Minn. — CVS Caremark Corp. is at 7,000 and growing. The company, which has quintupled its store count in just over 12 years, still sees significant opportunity for expansion, CVS/pharmacy president Larry Merlo said at the opening of the chain’s 7,000th store here last month in this St. Paul suburb.

The retailer will continue to debut 275 to 300 units a year across the country, he said. “We’re pretty happy with that growth plan,” Merlo remarked. “We’ve got a very healthy pipeline of stores that will make that goal a reality.”

CVS Caremark chose the Minneapolis/St. Paul market for the landmark opening because the drug store retailer has established a solid foothold in the area in just five years. “Our performance in this market has been terrific,” Merlo said, adding that consumers have signaled that “they like the CVS brand.”

He noted that, at 13,000 square feet, the Little Canada store is six times the size of the first CVS unit, which premiered in 1963. The letters stood for Consumer Value Stores, but the owners realized they could save money on the sign by shortening the name to CVS, Merlo quipped.

Who would have known, he asked, that 36 years later CVS Caremark would be opening its 7,000th outlet?

The store has all the elements of the chain’s latest prototype, including a “drive aisle” within the outlet, a double-lane drive-through pharmacy and a “digital photo café.” It is one of only a few CVS stores in the market without a walk-in clinic; 24 of the 41 CVS units in Minnesota have MinuteClinics.

At the same time as it opened the milestone store, CVS Caremark neared the completion of its integration of more than 520 former Longs Drug Stores.

The converted Longs units will be celebrated with a reopening promotion in November. Changes include lower store shelves, an expanded assortment of convenience food and beverages, and enhanced digital photofinishing offerings.

More than 400 of the stores are in California, where CVS Caremark now has more than 800 units. Longs was the market leader in greater Sacramento, had the second-place share in the San Francisco Bay area, and was third in both metropolitan San Diego and Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario.

The remainder of the acquired outlets are in Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii, where CVS has become the market leader.

In Little Canada, Merlo detailed CVS Caremark’s plan to offer $75,000 worth of free seasonal flu shots to the unemployed in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The plan is part of the company’s effort to provide $3 million in free flu shots to unemployed Americans nationwide. The 2,500 vouchers for free seasonal flu shots are being distributed in collaboration with Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development.

“We are pleased to provide free flu shots to the unemployed, who can be particularly vulnerable without health insurance,” stated Merlo.

To further mark the occasion, CVS Caremark presented a $7,000 donation to Courage Center, a Minnesota-based rehabilitation and resource center that advances the lives of children and adults experiencing barriers to health and independence. The donation is in keeping with CVS Caremark’s signature philanthropic program All Kids Can, a five-year, $25 million initiative to help children with disabilities to learn, play, and succeed in life.


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