Apples vs. oranges: New food-drug concept marks departure from trend

GREENVILLE, S.C. —More drug store retailers are testing expanded food offerings these days—the latest being a partnership pairing Rite Aid and Supervalu’s Save-A-Lot banner—in an attempt to increase trip opportunities. And given the evolving shopping behaviors of today’s consumer, it’s a strategy that just might work.

You only have to look as far as a recent SymphonyIRI Group study to realize why a general gravitation toward expansion of food store offerings in retail pharmacy settings makes sense. Consumers today are shopping across fewer retailers and are increasing the frequency of their “quick trip” shopping excursions. Total trips across all retailers have declined steadily since second quarter 2009, SymphonyIRI reported, with the exception of those “need-it-now” trips, which have remained steady since that time and actually have jumped dramatically in second quarter 2010.

“You have to think in terms of what is a weekly grocery shopping trip,” said Jeff Weidauer, VP marketing at Vestcom International, a company that helps drive awareness around these food offerings at the drug store with in-store shelf-edge communications. “The idea of Harriet Nelson going to the store once a week…really isn’t the norm any longer. People are shopping more frequently [and], especially where it concerns fresh foods, they’re buying them more just in time.”

Rite Aid’s deal is unique in that it’s partnering with hard-discount grocer Save-A-Lot, a factor that establishes a well-known and growing food store brand within Rite Aid’s four walls of health and wellness. And the strategy meshes with Rite Aid’s segmentation initiative, where the chain is implementing separate marketing and merchandising strategies for stores based on volume and which half of the store fares better—the pharmacy or the front-end.

The initial 10-store test in South Carolina is expected to help boost front-end sales, Cheryl Slavinsky, Rite Aid director of public relations, told Drug Store News. “Since early 2009, we’ve been transitioning from operating all of our stores the same way to identifying unique opportunities among like groups of stores,” she said. “And this is one of those unique opportunities.”

And Supervalu has dedicated quite a bit of capital against the rapid expansion of Save-A-Lot outlets in the Carolinas and nearby markets—as many as 100 new locations are planned for the company’s current fiscal year, and more than half of these stores will open across the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

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