CVS Pharmacy unveils the ‘next evolution of the customer experience’


NEW YORK — CVS Pharmacy continues to make a concerted effort to transform its stores, with the goal of fostering a better customer experience.

The retailer on Wednesday officially unveiled a new store design to enhance the retail customer experience with a new assortment of healthier food, health-focused products and expanded beauty selections, paired with informational signage throughout the store to help customers discover new offerings. The retailer hosted an event at The Garage in New York City on Wednesday to showcase the enhancements firsthand.

According to CVS, combined with its innovative digital programs, these changes represent the “next evolution of the customer experience at CVS Pharmacy.”

“Pharmacy is the heart of our business and our focus on providing care to patients and customers defines everything we do in our stores,” said Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy and EVP, CVS Health. “Our new retail offerings leverage our deep expertise in health to enhance our customers’ shopping experience. The same guiding principles that led to the removal of tobacco from our stores extend to our commitment to deliver the most innovative health and beauty solutions.” 

The new store formats and deeper focus on expanded health, healthier food and beauty assortments are key elements of the next phase of the front-store growth strategy, which was first introduced in 2015. Today there are more than 800 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide with this elevated design and assortment and over 3,400 with expanded food and beauty offerings. The latest improvements are intended to drive growth in categories that are most closely tied to the company’s health-focused purpose and expertise, while delivering a “shopping experience that no other online or brick-and-mortar retailer can replicate.”

Foulkes discussed these changes in detail during CVS Health’s December analyst meeting. At the time, the elevated design was in approximately 400 stores, and the results were tangible. For these stores, Foulkes reported improved run rates in consumables, up 9%, as well as beauty (up 4%) and health (up 2%).

CVS’ strategy is not a one-size-fits-all, Foulkes noted on Wednesday however. “We will continue to evolve the store experience as we test and learn in order to meet the needs of our customers in the ever-changing retail landscape,” she said. “As we identify key elements that resonate, such as new product assortments, health services and other in-store experiences, we will find ways to bring them to life in CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide.”

Major in-store changes

CVS Pharmacy is rolling out major changes to as many as 70 new and existing stores this year, with plans to expand to several hundred more in 2018. The new, health-focused formats have 100 feet of new merchandise in health, beauty and healthier food and use a streamlined layout to highlight themes that make shopping easier. “Discovery zones” in key health categories take a holistic approach to care and product selections, and customers are guided by informational signage with guidance to make finding the right solution easier.

CVS Pharmacy is also vastly expanding its offerings throughout health with a broader selection of vitamins and supplements, including offerings from specialty brands like Irwin Naturals and New Chapter, as well as expanded nutrition products like Vega and Naturade protein powders and Navitas Organics Superfood Mix Ins. Assortments tied to emerging areas like connected health, sleep/mood and immunity are merchandised in “discovery zones” that offer holistic solutions and easy navigation through educational displays.

In the beauty aisles, CVS Pharmacy continues to enhance the beauty shopping experience by adding new, “on-trend” beauty brands like Wunder2 and Tigi Cosmetics, as well as products that have greater skin health benefits and more natural ingredients. To help improve customer exploration and inspiration, a new “trend wall” has been added to 2,000 stores featuring new launches and niche brands. A beauty discovery zone highlights on-the-go options at checkout. As Drug Store News previously reported, an exclusive Korean Beauty selection curated by notable K-Beauty expert, Alicia Yoon, will be available in over 2,100 locations this month.

As for healthier food items, even more “better-for-you” food options are being added, including 27 new items under the exclusive Gold Emblem Abound product line. Healthier choices, including Alo Exposed Waters, Epic bison bars and That’s It. bars will make up approximately 50% of all food options found throughout the store. Additionally, products that fit nutritional and dietary preferences including heart healthy, good source of protein, gluten free, sugar free, organic and non-GMO project verified, are highlighted with shelf tags. This summer, the tags will expand into non-food categories, making it easier for customers to make purposeful choices throughout the store.

Post-tobacco era

The catalyst for all of these changes was CVS Pharmacy’s 2014 decision to stop selling tobacco. “Since CVS Pharmacy became the first and only national retail pharmacy to remove tobacco from its shelves in 2014, the next natural step in the evolution of our retail business was to expand our focus on health and beauty in the front of stores,” Foulkes told Drug Store News in October. “We’ve continued to take critical steps as the company continues to evolve into a premier health and beauty destination.”

CVS’ Beauty and health selection has been completely transformed since this important 2014 date. At the time of the tobacco announcement, health and beauty products comprised less than half of the CVS in-store mix, Foulkes stated in December. But CVS has a goal to have health and beauty products make up 80% of the mix in the future.

“Health and beauty products are closely tied to pharmacy,” she said. “They also have 1.7 times more profit than other categories.”

Corporate responsibility

As part of an ongoing commitment to corporate social responsibility, CVS Pharmacy is also taking the following steps:

  • Removing certain chemicals from beauty and personal care lines: By the end of 2019, all parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde donors in products within the CVS Health, Beauty 360, Essence of Beauty, Promise Organic and Blade store brand product lines will be removed.

  • New standards for vitamins and supplements: CVS Pharmacy is embarking on the development of new standards for vitamins and supplements, with the goal of full implementation by 2019. The standards will require third-party testing of ingredient listings for vitamins and supplements, as well as product testing for certain ingredients of concern.

CVS Pharmacy previously announced the removal of all artificial trans fats from all exclusive store brand food products. In addition, the company stated it recently removed all sun care products with SPF lower than 15 from its shelves while expanding products with SPF 30/broad spectrum, natural beauty brands and products focused on skin health. 

In addition to the in-store changes, CVS Pharmacy is making technological changes as well. According to the company, the mobile experience and ExtraCare Rewards program continue to evolve, offering more ways for customers to order products online and pick them up with CVS Curbside, pay seamles

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