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    Cure for What Ails

    In-store pharmacies offer potential for transforming supermarkets into wellness destinations.

    By Debra Chanil, EnsembleIQ

    As wellness gains traction as the overall mission for many grocers, cooperation between the food and pharmacy sides of the business is becoming an all-important goal.

    While many retailers that feature in-store pharmacies may merely offer prescription services, progressive grocers ? among them Hy-Vee and Safeway in particular ? are advocating a whole-store approach, as I described in my Editor?s Note, ?Owning Health & Wellness,? in the July 2014 issue.

    To that end, Progressive Grocer is introducing a Retail Pharmacy Review to its stable of category reports, based on exclusive proprietary research by PG and Stagnito Business Information.

    Already, two-thirds of respondents to PG?s survey say their in-store pharmacy is part of a larger wellness department, reflecting something we?re seeing more often in our store visits around the country.

    For a closer look inside the current state of supermarket pharmacies and what?s coming on the horizon, read on ?

    Value-added Services

    Among the respondents to PG?s survey, nearly 94 percent operate in-store pharmacies at an average of more than half of their stores; a respectable 30 percent operate stand-alone pharmacies apart from their grocery stores.

    Particularly significant is that two-thirds of survey respondents said their in-store pharmacies are part of the supermarket?s larger wellness department. Based on observations from PG editor store visits, this can range from the pharmacy anchoring an expanded vitamin and supplement section, to fronting aisles of better-for-you foods targeted for wellness merchandising, to dietitian and wellness consulting services.

    Some stores have on-staff technicians and nurse practitioners in addition to pharmacists. Others employ health-and-wellness specialists, while some outsource pharmacy staffing services.

    A ?360-degree? focus on wellness that encompasses food and pharmacy is a concept that?s gaining traction among several progressive grocers, including Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway, where Darren Singer, SVP of pharmacy, health and wellness, advocates a whole-store approach. ?The opportunity for food and pharmacy is clear,? Singer told an audience during the FMI Connect show in June. ?Food and pharmacy fill every need.?

    Singer calls pharmacists ?true health care providers,? arguing that the most pivotal area for grocers to have the greatest impact on wellness is diabetes care. With the food and medicine all under one roof, grocers are poised to offer complete diabetes care by assisting with self-management, medical counseling and healthy eating in a true destination for patients.

    To that end, Singer explains, Safeway has been transforming its pharmacies to provide a greater degree of ?patient-centered care?: lowering druggists? counters to make them more accessible to customers, allowing pharmacists more frequent forays into merchandising space, opening clinics and wellness centers, and offering immunizations and other drug administrations, as well as counseling and dietitian services.

    More than 80 percent of survey respondents say they offer at least one of more than a dozen distinct services through their pharmacy departments, including flu shots and other vaccinations, nutrition counseling, and weight management programs.

    Partnering with the Community

    Meanwhile, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee melds its three strategic initiatives ? customer experience, health and wellness, and culinary experience ? toward its goal of being a wellness leader. Sheila Laing, Hy-Vee?s SVP of health and wellness solutions, explained during another FMI Connect session that the grocer?s H&W department encompasses dietitians, pharmacy, clinic partners, wellness-related services, employee health, and its Healthmarket of natural and organic products.

    Keys to sustainable change in wellness include making healthier choices easier and taking H&W initiatives ?beyond the walls of the store.? As Helen Eddy, assistant VP of pharmacy services, noted, ?It?s the right thing to do for our communities, for our employees and for our customers.?

    Substantially more than half of respondents to PG?s survey said they?re allied with preferred providers, including insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

    Hy-Vee partners with nonprofits, state agencies, schools, businesses, health systems, insurance companies and, interestingly, competitors. This last relationship has been crucial to Hy-Vee?s participation in Iowa?s Healthiest State Initiative, which launched in 2011 with the aim of improving the quality of life for all Iowans. This has included the Blue Zones Project, which certified grocery stores, restaurants and worksites as sources of healthful foods, Eddy explained.

    In fact, Hy-Vee has issued joint press releases with competing grocers to announce new Blue Zones, she noted, adding, ?It?s not about us ? it?s about the community.?

    These initiatives have encouraged not only greater interest in healthy eating, but also fitness, through greater participation in fitness events like statewide 1K walks and school contests to win visits by Hy-Vee?s wellness bus.

    Further, partnering with branded health services like the Mayo Clinic to provide flu shots and other clinic services within stores ? even those historically administered by stores themselves ? enhances sales by drawing more people into stores to partake of those services.

    It also presents an opportunity for grocers to team with clinics on broader wellness events to include pharmacists and store chefs. ?You have to customize these clinics [to offer] what?s best for the community,? Laing said.

    Responding to an audience question about how Hy-Vee determines a store?s sales level determines whether it rates a dietitian, Eddy noted that Hy-Vee?s goal is to have all of its stores served by dietitians, and that the grocer is currently only eight stores short. While Hy-Vee has UPC codes to track wellness services, its ROI goes beyond basic sales to long-term relationships with customers by advising them on better health.

    ?You?ve changed a person forever, and you?ve got a customer forever,? Eddy said. ?How do you put a price tag on that??

    By Debra Chanil, EnsembleIQ
    • About Debra Chanil Debra Chanil is Director of Market Research of EnsembleIQ. She can be reached at [email protected]

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