NEW YORK Look for more changes in the look and feel of the Walgreens drug store.
That could be the ultimate effect of the shakeup in purchasing management this week, as Walgreens jettisoned three key front-end decision-makers and announced it was on the hunt for fresh thinking in front-store merchandising. As the sweeping Customer Centric Retailing project led by Chong Bang works its way through every non-pharmacy department in the store, customers will see more changes in the way Walgreens presents everything from beauty and wellness products to toothpaste and batteries.
Headed for the exits this week are the veteran category managers in charge of three core areas of the Walgreens drug store: Bill Hubbs, divisional VP/general merchandise manager for seasonal and sundry; Arnie Silver, divisional VP/GMM for consumables; and Kathy Steirly, divisional VP/GMM for beauty. Their departure, after years of effectively managing these huge categories, signals that Walgreens is serious about truly shaking up its merchandising strategy and inducing the millions of customers who walk through its aisles each day to put more in their shopping carts.
The company has acknowledged that their replacements could come from either Walgreens’ own ranks or from outside; the unanswered question is what the shift in category management means long-term for both the way product is displayed and signed at the front end, and the actual products customers will see on the shelves, endcaps and freestanding in-aisle displays.
Two things seem certain, however. First, the product mix will be more trimmed-down and condensed, and geared more to the “affordable essentials” Walgreens now says it must do a better job of offering the nation’s consumers in a time of economic belt-tightening. And secondly, Chong Bang’s team is likely to play a big role in whatever purchasing decisions are made as the company moves forward with its effort to make the customer the center of its retooling campaign.