retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Walgreen Co. is adjusting its marketing strategy, looking to become a more pervasive health care provider and resource for both consumers and employers.

According to the story, Walgreen “is expanding its clinics that operate at company workplaces. The company staffs 360 such clinics, including at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and at a Harrah's casino in Las Vegas. The company wants to grow to a combined 800 in-store and workplace clinics by the end of August. Walgreens announced Wednesday a ‘Complete Care and Well-Being’ program that offers business and government employers a cost-saving network for their employees that incorporates Walgreens pharmacies, clinics and private-label goods.”

Also has part of this approach, Walgreen is expanding its specialty pharmacy business, “which lets it provide costly medical care, including injections and intravenous therapies, at people's homes.”

The company pointed to the success of its loyalty program, according to the story. “The retailer has signed 1.5 million members to its prescription savings club program, which for a yearly fee ($20 for singles, $35 for families) offers a three-month supply of certain generic drugs for $12.99. About 30 percent of the club members are new Walgreens customers,” the Sun-Times writes. And Kim Feil, the company’s chief marketing officer, says that more loyalty programs will be introduced shortly.

The Sun-Times writes, “Walgreens executives say the company's strategy to expand access to basic health care will play well with the Obama administration.”

KC's View:
It’ll also play well in a recession when people have less access to health care and less access to health insurance.

It is the difference between being a source of product and a resource for consumers. The latter, I believe, is a far better position for retailers to be in if they want to survive the tough times and thrive in the good times.