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Eyebrow waxing and cafe lattes at the drugstore?

August 8, 2013
By TOM MURPHY , THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

At some Walgreen stores, there are health clinics staffed by nurse practitioners, cafes that sell barista-prepared coffee and Eyebrow Bars where trained professionals groom unruly facial hair.

Oh, and pharmacists fill prescriptions, too.

The nation's major drugstore chains are moving beyond simply doling out drugs and Kleenex. They're opening more in-store clinics and offering more health care products in part to serve an aging population that will need more care.

It's also a response to the massive U.S. health care overhaul, which is expected to add about 25 million newly insured people who will need medical care and prescriptions. And drugstores are offering more services as a way to boost revenue in the face of competition from retailers like Safeway and Wal-Mart that have added in-store pharmacies.

Beth Stiller, a divisional vice president at Walgreen, the nation's largest drugstore chain, said the changes are necessary because time-pressed customers have come to expect that they will be able to do more than just fill a prescription at drugstores.

"We live in a world where personalization and ... high-touch service is much more expected," agreed Helena Foulkes, chief health care strategy and marketing officer for CVS Caremark Corp., the nation's No. 2 drugstore chain.

The move toward expanding products and services has been gradual. Up until about five years ago, the major drugstore chains focused on adding stores, not services. Then when states started allowing pharmacists to provide flu shots, it paved the way for drugstores to begin offering other immunizations for diseases like pneumonia and shingles.

And after Congress passed the health care overhaul in 2010, drugstores started adding more in-store clinics to help serve the newly insured population that will be created by that law. At the same time, grocers and other big retailers have started beefing up their health care offerings to compete with pharmacies for customers.

For instance, Safeway Inc., which runs more than 1,600 stores under the Safeway and Vons names, is adding private rooms in some stores to make its pharmacists more accessible. It also is adding products that focus on a customer's health and well-being, such as health food or goods for a specific diet, like gluten-free products.

Steven A. Burd, the grocer's recently retired chairman and CEO, told investors earlier this year that he believes "Safeway can own the wellness space."

 
 

 

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