Doing more of your shopping at drug stores? You’re not alone


by Dan Rafter

How often do you run into a drugstore on the way home from work? And how often do you fill your shopping basket not just with aspirin and cough medicine, but with gallons of milk, loaves of bread and cans of pop?

If you find that you’re doing more of your actual grocery shopping at stores such as Walgreens and CVS, you’re not alone.

Research firm Nielsen last year told the Drug Store News trade publication that Millennials are big shoppers, spending up to $200 billion every year. But Millennials aren’t exactly rich: Nielsen said that the median annual income for younger Millennials stood at $25,000 and $48,000 for older Millennials.

So though they want plenty of products, they have to be frugal with their purchases. This is why the spending of Millennials often exceeds that of Baby Boomers in drug stores, according to Nielsen’s research.

Midwest Real Estate News recently spoke with Melissa Studzinski, vice president of customer relationship management with CVS/pharmacy, about Millennials and their increasingly frequent visits to drug stores.

Convenience: Not surprisingly, Studzinski cited convenience as one of the main draws inspiring Millennials to do more of their shopping at drug stores. Consider that CVS/pharmacy operates 7,800 stores across the country. More than 75 percent of the population live within three miles of one of the company’s stores in the markets that it serves.

Studzinski said that CVS/pharmacy stores have also increased the number and type of items that they sell. Shoppers can buy cereal, bandages, toys, magazines, cleaning supplies and candy. And there’s the pharmacy, too, of course. Like many drug store chains, CVS/pharmacy runs its own in-store clinics — they’re called MinuteClinic here — that can provide customers with quick care.

These services are important to Millennials because Millennials are often in a rush.

Catering to the shopping habits of Millennials: “Millennials are some of the most tech-savvy consumers,” Studzinski said. “They are more likely to make online puchases or engage with a brand via a mobile device compared to older consumers.”

This is why drug store chains are strengthening their mobile apps. For instance, shoppers can use the CVS/pharmacy app to refill prescriptions, check for possible negative drug interactions and redeem coupons and rewards points digitally.

Bye-bye fast food? Studzinski says that Millennials are turning to drug stores and convenience stores as a replacement for fast-food meals. Millennials are also interested in healthier snacks.

You might not think of drug stores as home to the healthiest of food items. But stores like Walgreens and CVS/pharmacy today stock a wider variety of healthier items. It’s not unusual to find urban drug stores, for instance, that sell fresh fruit.

CVS/pharmacy has launched its Gold Emblen Abound line to meet this trend. The line features food that is free of artificial preservatives and flavors.

Rewards on the rise: Nielsen’s research said that Millennials are particularly interested in rewards programs. Drug store leaders recognize this and have been introducing and strengthening their own rewards programs as a way to attract consumers.

CVS/pharmacy runs its ExtraCare rewards program. Shoppers who participate in the program receive ExtraBucks Rewards. Studzinski refers to these as “essentially free CVS money to spend on anything in the store.”

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