Supermarkets need better food-pharmacy symmetry

Articles
November 19, 2010

Supermarkets need better food-pharmacy symmetry

Somehow lost in the scramble of the mass, drug and dollar store pursuit of food and beverage sales is this truism: Of all retail channels, supermarkets have the most wellness elements under one roof.

Somehow lost in the scramble of the mass, drug and dollar store pursuit of food and beverage sales is this truism: Of all retail channels, supermarkets have the most wellness elements under one roof. 

Beyond pharmacy and OTCs, supermarkets have the freshest, most abundant assortments of nutritious foods. Period. Unfortunately, they muck up their wellness message by promoting junk foods and other items known more for their taste than healthfulness. Because food stores are filled with health traps, wellness-driven shoppers must fend off temptation in aisle after aisle – and that, we believe at The Lempert Report, is what sticks in their minds and dilutes much of the positive leverage these stores could wield. 

Supermarkets self-impose this hurt in their quest for bigger baskets. Wouldn’t it be refreshing, however, if supermarkets found a simple, graphic way to denote “healthy food” zones on the selling floor – for shoppers who only want that?  Of course, what goes there would be somewhat subjective, but these areas could serve as anxiety-free spots in the store for shoppers. This idea may be imperfect, but our goal is to prod retailers and their Shopper Marketing experts to think differently about how they serve up about 50,000 SKUs so they are regarded as more healthful destinations. 

If supermarkets don’t grab the wellness mantle now – after wasting years of open opportunity – they risk losing their inherent edge. We say this because Walgreens told Wall Street analysts recently it wants to “own well.”  The Lempert Report has previously written about the drug chain’s customer-centricity, it’s filling of the food deserts around Chicago, and its focus on fresh foods. Combined with its pharmacy strength, Walgreens is a viable competitor for a top wellness image – one that we believe others will quickly emulate.

Therefore, supermarkets had better wake up fast. Food stores with pharmacy need to leverage their pharmacists as “good health” ambassadors, perhaps with dietitians; together, they could develop comprehensive medication and food regimens for customers’ individual conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol or allergies, as examples. Stores could host after-hours events: think healthful-cooking demonstrations, store tours that point out intelligent choices at the shelf, or classes with guest speakers such as local physicians or educators about improving eating habits.

For supermarkets, it’s no longer enough to sell good food and run good pharmacies. They need better symmetry between the two – they have to organize better and directly message consumers that supermarkets are the most appealing and logical wellness centers around.