Transformation in the drug store industry gets serious 

    Changing consumer habits have emptied malls, sent department stores into bankruptcy and transformed grocery stores.

    Now it’s the drugstore’s turn.

    Just this week, as the Chicago Tribune reports, Walgreens disclosed it will close 200 U.S. stores and CVS Health said it will slow the pace at which it opens new locations.

    For pharmacies, also facing pressures related to medication reimbursements, getting customers to come in once a month for a prescription refill, or for an occasional gallon of milk or bottle of shampoo isn’t enough. Walgreens and CVS are both trying to give customers more reasons to visit their stores by offering more health services and better merchandise.

    “One of the reasons why they’re closing stores right now is to better position themselves for the future,” said Brian Owens, a senior vice president of retail insight at consulting firm Kantar.

    In the past, dispensing medications was the focus, and now drugstores are shifting to make the consumer the focus, he said. “The store has to work differently for them than it did in the past,” he said.

    CVS, which acquired health insurer Aetna in November, plans to turn 1,500 of its stores into so-called HealthHUBs, in which a significant portion of the store is dedicated to health services and products, such as nutritional counseling and equipment for sleep apnea. When customers are coming to pharmacies for healthcare services rather than candy bars and greeting cards, CVS doesn’t have to rely as much on convenience and might not need as many stores, said Mickey Chadha, a Moody’s analyst who covers CVS. Read the full story.

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