WAG moves ahead with vision

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — “I wore a baseball cap and sweatshirt and went into some old and new stores,” Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson told BusinessWeek about the time in 2009 when he went undercover to check out the competition in Manhattan, for the story that appears in its Sept 30 issue. “The moment I decided we should get serious about buying Duane Reade was after seeing their new Herald Square store. … I said, ‘Duane Reade is creating something new.’ That’s what we were looking to do.”

(THE NEWS: Walgreens reorganizes merchandising, marketing teams. For the full story, click here)

With that in mind, you might be able to say that Joe Magnacca’s vision and “exceptional market focus” may have been as important to the Duane Reade acquisition as the stores themselves. Walgreens wants to push the limits and keep reinventing the definition of a drug store and what it means to a consumer. From a total merchandising standpoint, Magnacca was the key architect of the reinvention of Duane Reade from “one of New York’s rawest shopping experiences, with the ambiance of a DMV,” according to the BusinessWeek article, to a “Manhattan Miracle.”

Today, many of the creative innovations that Magnacca helped bring to Duane Reade — particularly, the Look beauty departments, as well as the more upscale in which it delivers food, even elements of its Flex Rewards loyalty card program — are being applied across Walgreens' other approximately 7,500 stores. And the company’s new flagship store at 40 Wall St., the first co-branded Duane Reade-Walgreens store, will continue to be a learning lab for what Walgreens could possibly replicate in its other stores. It will continue to use the store to test the outermost limits of the drug store shopping experience.

Now, Walgreens wants to completely integrate its stores and its messaging. The move eliminated the chief marketing officer position, and, as a result, Kim Feil, a world-class marketer, has left the company. Feil helped change Walgreens from “a good advertiser to a world-class marketer.” That’s how Wasson once described Feil’s important contributions to the chain. With such programs as “Walgreens: There’s a Way,” Feil helped position Walgreens as more than just a drug store but rather as an integral part of the communities it serves.

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