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Duane Reade flagship goes digital with Tensator Virtual Assistant

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — The new Duane Reade flagship Wall Street store, visited by Drug Store News in an exclusive tour on Tuesday, represents the first American retailer to employ a next-generation digital signage solution from Lawrence called the Tensator Virtual Assistant, which uses the very latest in holographic imaging and audio-visual technology to create the illusion of a real person.

“Our Virtual Greeter is an essential part of the ‘wow factor’ we have built into our newest store and serves as ambassador of the new Duane Reade customer experience,” said Paul Tiberio, SVP merchandising and chief marketing officer for Duane Reade. “The virtual aspect captures shoppers’ attention from the moment they enter the store — engaging their visual and auditory senses.”

The completely customized Virtual Assistant greets New Yorkers to the newest Duane Reade store, immediately engaging customers and providing guidance on everything store related, including instructions on seeing the “Doctor on Premises,” getting a virtual makeover, hours of operation and checkout information. It even makes suggestions and recommendations on leading-brand foods, drinks, cosmetics, hair and pharmaceutical choices available to customers.

“Duane Reade immediately recognized the incredible benefits the Tensator Virtual Assistant provides to [its] newest location,” commented Bill Vetter, general manager of Lawrence, a Tensator Group Co. “With the multitude of offerings in this premiere store and 24/7 operations, Tensator’s Virtual Assistant provides the industry’s most advanced solution to deliver a consistent store and brand message with customizable content in real time, helping Duane Reade communicate with [its] customers, empowering them to make the most of this incredible New York shopping experience.”

Lawrence also is enhancing the customer journey and increasing revenues within the Duane Reade store by installing an In-Queue Merchandising system that transforms unused space at the checkstand into a valuable retail area, enabling Duane Reade to boost impulse sales among customers waiting to check out by up to 400%.

The units already are in place in the United Kingdom at London Luton and Birmingham Airports. Some of the next-stage developments for the Tensator Virtual Assistant include interactivity, location awareness and virtual help desks.

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A&P helps pet owners save with new program

BY Antoinette Alexander

MONTVALE, N.J. — Grocer A&P has announced the launch of a new Preferred Pet Club program in collaboration with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, offering exclusive discounts to pet owners across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut.

For every $100 in pet-related spending, all A&P, Pathmark, Waldbaum’s, The Food Emporium and Superfresh customers will receive a coupon for $9 off their next grocery order, and A&P will make a $1 donation to the ASPCA. In addition, pet owners who sign up for A&P’s Live Better Wellness Club will have the opportunity to save an additional 10% on all of their pet prescriptions. The promotion will run through Dec. 31.

In addition to making regular donations to the ASPCA and providing discounts to shoppers, A&P is planning to roll out Adopt-A-Pet events in select stores throughout the year to help find homes for abandoned and mistreated animals.

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WAG’s June sales beat analyst expectations

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens’ stock was trading up 30 cents to $43.03 on the New York Stock Exchange mid-morning on Wednesday thanks to favorable same-store sales growth of 4.8% for the month of June versus an analyst consensus estimate of 2.8%.

Much of that sales growth can be traced to the front-end, as Walgreens posted 4.7% increased sales across comparable stores against tougher year-over-year comparisons. Before Walgreens reported June sales, Credit Suisse analyst Ed Kelly projected a 3% same-store sales increase driven by re-inflation and improving customer traffic. “We believe sales will continue to improve throughout the year [across the drug channel], as drug stores pass through product cost inflation without a meaningful impact to volume,” Kelly said.

Overall, Walgreens reported June sales of $6 billion, up 6.8% as compared with last year. Total front-end sales were up 6.4%. In addition to the 4.7% front-end same-store sales lift, customer traffic in comparable stores increased 1.3% and basket size increased 3.4%.

Prescriptions filled at comparable stores were up 5% across the Walgreens network in June. Calendar day shifts positively impacted prescriptions filled in comparable stores by 30 basis points, Walgreens reported. Kelly pointed to higher pricing on branded drugs and a lull in the generic wave as additional driving factors of prescription growth. “Underlying script growth has remained lackluster since flu activity decelerated in April,” he wrote in a research note released last week. “Total script growth, as reported by IMS, averaged just 1% in the last four weeks ended June 17 v. 2%-3% earlier in the year.”

June pharmacy sales across Walgreens increased 6.2%, while comparable pharmacy sales increased 4.9%. Pharmacy sales accounted for 65.6% of total sales for the month.

Walgreens opened 15 stores during June, including two relocations, acquired seven stores and closed one for a net increase of 19 stores in the month.

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