Personalized service from store attendants grows in importance for pharmacy retailers

Rite Aid promotion of pharmacy executive shows chain's emphasis on Wellness Ambassador program

Rite Aid announced Monday the promotion of Karen Staniforth to group VP pharmacy initiatives and clinical services from her current position of VP pharmacy for the chain's mid-Atlantic division. In her new position, Staniforth will oversee the company's strategy around the Wellness Ambassadors, specially trained staff who walk the aisles of the stores and provide information on health and wellness products and programs, as well as serve as a "bridge" between the front end and the pharmacy.

From the beginning, Wellness Ambassadors have been a crucial part of Rite Aid's Wellness store remodel program, and early on, John Standley, its chairman and CEO, noted that Wellness stores with Wellness Ambassadors showed stronger sales than those without them. As of the chain's second-quarter 2014, the results of which it announced in September, there were 1,700 Wellness Ambassadors at 1,019 stores.

It's the personalized, one-on-one service that the Wellness Ambassadors provide to customers that has made them such an asset for the company and helped them drive sales for the Wellness stores, not to mention the literal ambassadorial role they serve when they go out into communities to promote Rite Aid's health and wellness programs.

Lately, Rite Aid has implemented a similar program as part of a test of its Beauty Vision concept at a select number of Wellness Stores, with special store attendants called Beauty Vision advisers providing information and advice on beauty and personal care products.

It's too early to tell how the concept is doing, let alone what effects the the Beauty Vision advisers have had on sales, but early results from at least one store indicate that cosmetics sales there are tracking ahead of those at other stores. And chains like Walgreens, Duane Reade and Target have lately been expanding their respective Look Boutique beauty advisor and beauty concierge programs.

The idea of store attendants is nothing new, but it's becoming increasingly popular for a number of retailers and retail formats that traditionally didn't use them, showing that one-on-one service is of growing importance for driving customer traffic and sales.

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