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Navigating the multichannel universe with WAG

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Somehow, someway, Walgreens will be the first to figure out how to beam a prescription right into a patient’s medicine cabinet "Star-Trek" style. Because as sure as the chain’s e-commerce president Sona Chawla is to Walgreens as Scotty is to the USS Enterprise, Walgreens is moving at light speed in monetizing and capitalizing on multichannel retailing. And the chain hasn’t even got its multichannel engines really revved yet.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens rolls out Web pickup to Chicagoland stores. For the full story, click here.)

(THE NEWS: Walgreens implements Chicago Hometown Investment Initiative. For the full story, click here.)

Here Walgreens isn’t only creating a convenience play as a value-added bonus for being a loyal Walgreens consumer; they are literally staking a Walgreens retail banner wherever their consumer happens to be at the time. And more and more, she’s online seeking out the best deals and making her shopping lists.

According to a recent survey released by SymphonyIRI Group, list making and coupon clipping still are top of mind for consumers as they struggle with high gas prices and question their job stability. Additionally, the survey uncovered that consumers are turning to the Internet to find the best deals. And as many as 8% of consumers are using the Internet to make lists, SymphonyIRI found.

And now Walgreens has created a tool whereby a shopper can create that list and pay for everything on that list all online and just before leaving work, after which they can pick it up on the way home at their convenience. Walgreens is even developing a curbside program where those tech-savvy consumers won’t have to get out of their cars. I’m telling you, the next phase of this program is going to be teleportation. OK, beaming over a prescription refill still may be a little sci-fi fantasy-ish, but don’t think Walgreens is done innovating in the multichannel space. Not by a long shot, because the company also last week announced they will soon hire more than 300 technophiles in order to fully capitalize on multichannel retailing.

With these new hires, Walgreens will be bolstering its dedicated workforce against its e-commerce, information technology and other support areas. The expansion comes shortly after Walgreens completed its acquisition of Drugstore.com, a strong online business that better positions Walgreens as “the most convenient multichannel retailer of health and daily living in America.”

With all of this, you don’t have to be a Trekkie to see that Walgreens is bravely navigating the multichannel universe.

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Bigger push into men’s grooming may mean more dollars for retailers

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Does Family Dollar’s expansion of health and beauty items, which contributed to its overall inventory growth during the third quarter, and Ulta’s plan to create men’s grooming boutiques within most of its nearly 400 stores mean a new competitive threat for drug stores?

(THE NEWS: Inventories swell as Family Dollar boosts beauty. For the full story, click here.)

(THE NEWS: Report: Ulta seeks to bring men to stores with in-store boutiques. For the full story, click here.)

Family Dollar reported that a 25% boost in its health and beauty care product assortment at 5,000-of-its-6,900 stores helped fuel overall inventory growth and bolstered in-store traffic. A glimpse at Family Dollar’s website also illustrates the retailer’s effort to promote beauty. The site highlights such items as N.Y.C. New York Color makeup, CoverGirl Clean makeup, Pantene shampoo and conditioner, and Luster’s Pink relaxer kit and glosser.

Meanwhile, Ulta’s president and CEO Chuck Rubin told attendees of the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit that it will carve out dedicated space — likely near the front of the store — for men’s grooming products. Yes, the beauty retailer already sells such products, but pulling these items together into one area and placing them near the front of the store clearly represents an opportunity for Ulta to better reach him. Rubin acknowledged that the bulk of the items probably will still be purchased by a woman for the man in her life, but it isn’t unrealistic to think that the initiative is bound to increase the number of men who shop the store.

And Ulta isn’t alone in its efforts. Procter & Gamble teamed up with retailer H-E-B to implement the Men’s Zone in select store locations. The store-within-a-store is specially tailored to meet his grooming needs, bringing together more than 530 personal care products for men. To further appeal to him, the Men’s Zone has touchscreens so he can get grooming tips and discover new products and even has flat-screen TVs that can show sporting events or other information.

When looking at the numbers, it is evident why such retailers as Ulta and H-E-B are making a greater push into men’s grooming. According to a Packaged Facts’ report, "Men’s Grooming Products: A Global Analysis," male-specific body wash, deodorant, hair gel, shaving cream, razors and moisturizers constitute one of those markets that now outpaces the overall beauty/grooming retail markets in many countries of the world. Valued at $19.7 billion worldwide in 2009, male-specific products are expected to mushroom to $28 billion by 2014.

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Pharmaca’s founder leaves post as chairman

BY Michael Johnsen

BOULDER, Colo. — Barry Perzow, chairman and founder of Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy on Thursday announced his retirement from the progressive pharmacy operation.

He will continue to serve on Pharmaca’s board.

“I have lived a purposeful life founding and running businesses that have made a difference with a social consciousness, always exemplifying authenticity, environmental and community values and building committed and passionate teams all buying into the same mission,” Perzow stated. “Pharmaca has an exceptional management team in place led by [CEO Mark] Panzer and a very capable board of directors. It’s a good time for me to explore new passions and opportunities that further fulfill my personal goals and lifestyle.”

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