Firsthand proof that retail clinics are flourishing
When Drug Store News published its first issue of Retail Clinician in spring 2006, there were about 100 clinics in operation; today there are more than 700 clinics operating across the country, and by the end of the year it likely will be in the 800 to 900 range. That number is expected to double year-over-year well into the foreseeable future.
It’s really not that surprising. In a lot of ways I am actually a pretty good illustration of why the clinic model is flourishing in America today. You see, I’m not just the editor, but in the words of International Hair Club for Men icon Sy Sperling, I’m also a customer; certainly, a more frequent customer than I ever might have imagined I would be. Admittedly, I am not exactly the greatest consumer of health care. Up until about one month ago I had been to the doctor just once in the last two years—my wife made me as it had been five years, prior to that, since my last physical.
On the other hand, I have visited retail clinics four times since the debut of Retail Clinician—not as the editor, but as a patient. I go to the clinic because it’s accessible to me on my terms; when I am sick the NPs are there to treat me. I don’t need an appointment and because of the limited scope of services that most operators offer, I can reasonably expect that it will take about 15 minutes for every patient that is ahead of me until I will be seen.
It is affordable; most of the leading providers accept about 90 percent of all insurance plans.
It is a seamless experience. I am treated and diagnosed, and if I receive a prescription I can walk across the store and expect the whole experience to be over in about another 15 minutes—or less.
The quality of care is exceptional; all of the major providers have standard treatment protocols in place, established patient referral systems with local physicians, medical offices, hospitals and healthcare systems, and more important, these clinics are leading the expansion of healthcare information technology that is the only real chance this country has to repair its highly fractured healthcare system. When patients leave most retail clinics they walk away with an electronic medical record, which will be the basis of any personalized record that would enable providers across a broad spectrum of practice settings to get a patient’s medical history.
Why don’t I go to the doctor any more? It has become almost the exact opposite of the retail clinic experience.
It can take a week or more to get an appointment. By then I will either be well again or dead from whatever it was I had.
Like many Americans, my company has changed health plans a number of times over the past several years and my regular doctor hasn’t always been a part of my available network; he doesn’t participate in my current plan.
The process of seeking treatment through traditional channels can be a nightmare. In October, I had the displeasure of breaking my nose pretty badly. In addition to the break, I also required a couple of stitches to close a nasty gash on the bridge of my nose. As I had the incredibly bad timing to receive my injuries late on a Sunday evening, it was six hours and one $75 co-pay before I was done.
Even on a busy Saturday evening—the medical assistant that admitted me joked that if I got there five minutes later she would have broken my nose all over again—with several patients ahead of me, it only took 30 minutes and a $15 co-pay to get my stitches out, five days later, at the Duane Reade Walk-In Medical Care clinic in Times Square.
Big crowds greet Tesco debut in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES Tesco wanted to make a good impression with its Nov. 8 Fresh & Easy debut in Los Angeles—a city where image is everything—and it did just that with a huge crowd jamming the aisles on opening day. Company officials reported similar turnouts at five other grand openings in Southern California and acknowledged customer response exceeded expectations.
More than one hundred people stood in line waiting to get into the Los Angeles store, with employees letting customers in as others left. And what they saw inside was a Tesco’s new hybrid combining elements of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and 7-Eleven with some borrowings from its stores in Europe.
The basic concept of Fresh & Easy is a convenient shopping experience with an emphasis on healthy food and prepared meals from its Fresh & Easy private label. During a brief tour of the crowded store, Uwins explained that 50 percent of its food offerings are from its private label and that everything is created, cooked and packaged at its own state-of-the art “kitchen” in Southern California, including all of its prepared meals.
“We expected pre-prepared meals to be a massive hit here in the U.S.,” said Simon Uwins, Tesco’s chief marketing officer. “And so far, judging from the gaps we see in our refrigerated cases, they’re being cleared out rather fast.”
Several things set Fresh & Easy apart from other grocery retailers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, the two it resembles the most. As Uwins mentioned, its Fresh & Easy private label has a 50 percent penetration rate and is represented in nearly every major food category including produce, meat, prepared meals, juice, coffee and mixed nuts.
And that reliance on private label allows it to offer some very competitive prices. Overall, Tesco says its prices are well below its main rivals at standard supermarkets. “We estimate our prices are about 20 percent lower than most supermarkets in the area,” said Uwins.
Its selection general merchandise, health and beauty and over-the-counter medications is small supermarket standards and runs more along the lines of a convenience store, though with a broader assortment. Basics like paper towels, diapers and pet food are stocked in a single aisle and its HBC and OTC products are located on one long shelf toward the back of the store capped with a section for greeting cards and magazines.
The rather small selection—and the complete lack of private label products—shows Fresh & Easy is primarily about the food, though that could change. “There are no private label products outside of food right now but that’s not to say that won’t change,” said Uwins.
The in-store signage is also unique and stamps Fresh & Easy as an organic and eco-friendly retailer, a good image for Southern California. Nearly every green, cardboard endcap features a message about its products including “all our bagged coffee is certified organic” and “our desserts contain 0 percent trans fats.” LED lighting is also used in the store, something else pointed out in its signs. The store doesn’t sell cigarettes but do carry a large selection of wine along with liquor and beer.
The checkout system is completely automated with 100 percent assisted self-checkout. Five checkout stands are small and designed for 15 items or less and the rest are a bit larger with scanners and self-pay systems (though there were plenty of employees nearby to help out people not familiar with the concept).
As expected, Tesco had some detractors at its grand openings in the form of labor unions and neighborhood groups. The Carpenters Local 1506 picketed in front of the Los Angeles store and handed out fliers claiming that a group hired by Tesco to help build its stores “does not meet area labor standards, including paying for health care and pension for all its employees on all projects.”
Tesco has a second wave of five openings planned for Las Vegas on Nov. 14 and plans to have stores open in the San Diego market in late November and Phoenix in early December. It expects to have 50 stores operating in California, Nevada and Arizona by next February.
Costco announces October sales figures
ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco reported a big 9 percent jump in same store sales in October.
Leading the way was a 17 percent increase in sales at its international stores with U.S. sales jumping 7 percent. The increase beat the 5.7 percent average predicted by analysts for the month.