You know exactly what you’ll find when you step into that Walgreens store on the corner in your neighborhood: Makeup, lotion, 2-liter bottles of pop, discounted DVDs and disposable cameras.
But what if you stepped into a Walgreens that offered a cafe with a made-to-order juice, smoothie and milkshake bar? What if you could order hand-rolled sushi and sashimi from your local Walgreens?
And what if your neighborhood Walgreens boasted its own walk-in cooler stocked with craft beers and wines?
If your neighborhood featured a Walgreens flagship store, those craft beers, smoothies and sushi rolls would be yours.
Walgreens, like many retailers, is opening deluxe versions of its stores across the country, mostly in high-profile, high-traffic areas. Walgreens now has 14 flagship stores located across the country.
The latest opened June 25 in downtown Chicago in the north tower of the iconic Wrigley Building.
Joe Jackman played a key role in the latest Walgreens. He’s the chief executive officer of Jackman Reinvention in Toronto, and he and his team members have helped Walgreens create and design its 14 flagship stores.
“These are the best of the best,” Jackman said. “These stores are designed to amplify what a brand stands for. These are the most exciting versions of a store, the versions you won’t find elsewhere.”
The flagship label applies not only to the interior of the stores — the Walgreens in the Wrigley Building, for instance, has two floors, giving it enough extra space to offer new products and services such as a LOOK Boutique stocked with expanded skincare and hair care products, self-serve frozen yogurt and a healthcare clinic staffed by family nurse practitioners – but to the exterior of them, too. Jackman said that the design team made sure that the new Walgreens store fits into the surrounding architecture on Michigan Avenue.
An example? The Wrigley Building is known for the clock atop its tower. Customers stepping inside the new Walgreens will immediately see a tile mosaic of the famed clock as they enter from Michigan Avenue.
“We’ve been working for Walgreens for just about four years, and during this time we’ve helped them realize their vision of where the brand can go,” Jackman said. “We are working to take Walgreens into the future. There’s a reason this kind of work is exciting. You are working in a higher-profile way. The work is more visible and amplified.”
Jackman says that retailers will continue experimenting with new versions of their stores. It’s not a new concept, with several retailers, for instance, opening smaller versions of their traditional stores in urban areas.
In Minneapolis, Target plans to open a Target Express on one corner of The Marshall, a new student-housing development being built in the city’s Dinkytown neighborhood near the University of Minnesota.
Target Express is the opposite of the Walgreens flagship stores. The one in The Marshall will actually be the smallest Target store in the chain’s history. It is designed to serve students and urban guests who want to make quick trips to pick up snacks, aspirin or lipstick. The Target Express is about 15 percent of the size of a general merchandise Target store.
“This is an exciting opportunity to test and learn as we continue exploring new ways to meet our guests’ needs,” said John Griffith, executive vice president of property development at Target, in a written statement.
The Target Express seeks to eliminate the typical “pain points” of quick shopping trips such as long lines and dull offerings. The checkout lanes will be designed to cater to high traffic and to customers carrying smaller shopping baskets instead of pushing full-size shopping carts.
Walmart has opened its own city versions of its stores, many in urban Chicago locations. The company brands these smaller versions as Walmart Express stores.
For Jackman, it all comes down to bringing shoppers what they want. And shoppers stepping into a Walgreens in the Wrigley Building are usually looking for a different experience than those visiting a corner store in the suburbs, he said.
“How can we be of the greatest value to our customers?” Jackman asks. “That’s the approach we take. We don’t want to take the cookie-cutter approach that so many other retailers have taken in the past. We want to offer products and services that match exactly what the need is.”
In a flagship location like in the Wrigley building, this means serving a variety of customers. There are the nearby office workers who want to stop in to get a sandwich for lunch. There are the residents who live in condos and apartment buildings nearby who want kitchen supplies and fresh produce. Then there are the tourists who want to experience the whole store, munching on frozen yogurt while browsing the wide range of Chicago souvenirs on display.