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See inside the Walgreens pharmacy of the future



WalgreensLydia Ramsey/Business Insider

  • We took a look at a Walgreens
    store where the drugstore giant pilots some of its new strategies
    to see what the future of the pharmacy might look like. 
  • Inside, we saw a makeup counter, shelves of over-the-counter
    medication and toiletries, and medical services like an
    eyeglasses store. 
  • One big goal is to create new reasons for customers to shop
    in stores, as more and more shopping moves online to competitors
  • “We’re in transformation mode,” Richard Ashworth, Walgreens’
    president of operations, told Business Insider. 

On the edge of a suburban lot in the Chicago area, next to a
Whole Foods and across the way from a Barnes & Noble, sits a

At first glance, it seems like any other drugstore. But upon
closer look there are some differences.

For one, there’s a large beauty section right at the front of the
store. For another, candy and other tempting snacks have been
relegated to the back, along with seasonal decorations. There’s
more over-the-counter medications, supplements, and toiletries in
the first few aisles, too. 

Another big change: the store offers lots of health services,
such as hearing screenings, eye exams, and
lab tests

is using this store — not more than half a mile from its
corporate headquarters — as its pilot for what future pharmacies
might look like around the US. In a world where more and more
shopping happens online, Walgreens is
trying to figure out
what it’ll take to get you to visit one
of its 9,560 US stores.

“We’re in transformation mode,” Richard Ashworth, Walgreens’
president of operations told Business Insider. 

Ashworth is doing all this to keep up with customer behavior,
which has been changing much faster than it has in past decades.
From 2010-2018, he said, “Everything has changed.” 

Ashworth says customers want to
be able to shop more quickly and conveniently. And they’re making
lots of their purchases online, and having them delivered.

Walgreens is up against stiff competition for customers, facing
off against the
likes of Amazon,
which is getting into the pharmacy business
through its
acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack
CVS Health
, which is making a big bet on the healthcare
aspect of its business through the pending acquisition of insurer
Aetna, and of course retail giant

For its part, Walgreens might be looking to strike up a closer
relationship with a health insurer as well. On Tuesday,
The Wall Street Journal reported
that Walgreens and Humana
were considering taking equity stakes in one another. Walgreens
is already partnering with Humana to run primary care clinics out
of some of its stores in the
Kansas City area

Read more:

Amazon beat out Walmart in a deal for a small pharmacy startup —
and it shows just how intense the rivalry’s gotten

The pharmacy giant is hanging on — the stock of its parent
company is up 5.6% over
 But same-store sales of things like snacks,
toothbrushes and laundry detergent were down 1.9% in the
company’s fiscal fourth quarter. Prescription-drug sales did
better, up 1.3%.

As competition heats up, Ashworth has faith that going to an
actual store will still be a part of that picture. 

“I think customers very much will
enjoy brick and mortar retailing if we make it modern and
experiential,” Ashworth said. 

How Walgreens is trying to improve your experience in the

On the left side of the store as I walked in, I was greeted by a
make-up display presenting kits filled with bath bombs, brushes,
and lip balm. There’s a designated beauty consultant who
staffs the section. Across they US, Walgreens has hired 3,500
beauty consultants, Ashworth said. 

On the right side, next to a FedEx counter, was an optical store.
There, I could browse for eyeglasses or pop into an eye exam
room. The optometrist had previously worked at the
Sears Optical
in Niles, Illinois. That Sears is among the
the company announced in October
it would close.  

Walgreens opticalLydia Ramsey/Business Insider

There was a place to get lab results as well. In October,
Walgreens made an agreement with lab-testing giant
LabCorp to open at least 600 locations

IMG 1048.JPGLydia Ramsey/Business Insider

All of the health services — including lab services, the
pharmacy, and optical — are nestled under what Walgreens calls
its health corner alongside a hearing station. Within the hearing
station is a room built to test how well people can hear, which
could dictate whether they might need a hearing aid. 

IMG 1049.JPGLydia Ramsey/Business Insider

The pharmacy counter is in the back right corner, which looked
standard apart from the express lane. Through the Walgreens app,
you’re able to check out remotely and then scan the QR code for a
quicker check-out process. Here’s a closer look at the counter:

Pharmacy Still from Video 02Courtesy

As for whether it’ll all look like the storefront in Deerfield,
Illinois: “Jury’s not out on
that,” Ashworth said. What works for one community might not work
for another.

See also: 

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