GNC seeks competitive edge with new store format

NEW YORK GNC is taking its boutique-style specialty shop to a whole new level, especially as it starts folding in product lines not normally part of a specialty supplement shop’s repertoire — yoga, pet supplements, probiotics, homeopathic health remedies, natural skin care, natural oral care and a wider assortment of arguably commodity-type supplement offerings, such as multivitamins and such popular health supplements as vitamin D or fish oil.


You’ve got to wonder, though, how much GNC’s relationship with Rite Aid is playing a part in all of this. GNC now has some 10 years under its belt in its partnership with Rite Aid, which means some 10 years of gleaning insights on how Rite Aid has successfully positioned that GNC store-within-a-store concept as a more profitable supplement center and a true point-of-differentiation.


It’s also been about two years since one of the Rite Aid executives who helped develop and nurture that GNC/Rite Aid concept in the beginning has been at the helm at GNC aspresident and chief merchandising and marketing officer. “GNC has a very unique position in the market,” Beth Kaplan told Drug Store News soon after she joined GNC. “GNC’s initial DNA is built around vitamins and supplements,” she said then, not just diet aids and sports nutrition.

It’s certainly a smart play — it’s more reflective of today’s healthcare mood as politicians continue to debate how to best infuse a cost-saving well-care sentiment in healthcare reform over the sick-care model that exists today. And it de-emphasizes perhaps the two more controversial categories GNC is currently best-known for — weight loss diet aids and sport nutrition supplements. They’re not abandoning those segments of course — it’s still going to occupy half the store’s footprint after all — and nor should they. They’re legitimate businesses when marketed and merchandised responsibly. But the fact remains that both weight loss and  sports nutritionals are under greater scrutiny with today’s more-aggressive Food and Drug Administration and the controversy surrounding performance-enhancing drugs being illegally marketed as supplements — the subject, in fact, of a Congressional hearing held just last week.

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