The centerpiece of Rite Aid’s new RxEvolution strategy for success is its Store of the Future, in which the retail chain is intent on bringing pharmacists out of their customary place in the back of the store, and prominently placing them front and center.
Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid’s executive vice president and chief pharmacy officer, said the mission of RxEvolution and the new store format is to unlock the value of its pharmacists to support its customers and communities.
“We want to ultimately enable our pharmacists to address mind, body and spirit of each of our customers, so that they don’t only get healthy, they get thriving,” Konrad said. “Most of the time our role is to create health outcomes, or to keep people healthy, or help when they have health conditions. We are taking that one step further and not only keeping people healthy, and not only driving wellness, but actually getting them to thrive and be their best selves.”
With an eye on helping patients attain this goal, Rite Aid debuted the Store of the Future in three markets, Etters, Pa.; Littleton, N.H.; and Moscow, Pa., where it is taking pharmacy services to new heights.
“The Store of the Future highlights the RxEvolution strategy as the whole store is reimagined and remodeled,” she said. “Whether it be the front-end merchandise and, in particular, the way we have reintroduced the pharmacist to our customers in a very different way that has never been done before. Historically, the industry kept that pharmacist back in the production end of the pharmacy and what we have literally done is pulled that pharmacist out to be front and center for our customers, so there’s always a connection every time the customer is in our stores.”
The Store of the Future is designed so that pharmacists sit behind the registers, so that they can easily come out to the customers and can bring them over to their consultation area, streamlining the entire experience.
A key component of Rite Aid’s new strategy is to continue to have its pharmacists interacting with the traditional care that they have always provided in terms of prescriptions, but also to enhance its pharmacists’ ability to provide alternative and complementary remedies through more meaningful and robust consultations.
“We also want to be a connector for patients to the healthcare system. In the Stores of the Future, we have a virtual care room,” Konrad said. “As we identify needs of the customer that go beyond the pharmacist, we can ultimately connect them directly to their own healthcare provider, or another healthcare provider in a network that will support them, and not be fragmented from their normal care.”
With just so many hours in a day, Rite Aid realized the need to further enhance its pharmacy workflow efficiency. To get there, the chain is utilizing lean methodology, which focuses on taking waste out of pharmacy production and creating standard workflows.
“It is really freeing up time or better utilizing the time of our support staff,” Konrad said.
Pharmacists are not spending as much time in the production phase as they did before. “They are still involved in the quality assurance of the final prescription. However, what we’re doing is taking a lot of the waste out, and utilizing our resources more effectively within the pharmacy,” said Konrad. “We’re enhancing the efficiencies to free up the time to utilize that time by our pharmacists for bigger and better things.”
Konrad provided the example of using technicians to perform data entry of the prescriptions, and putting the pills in the bottle, and labeling the bottle, and having pharmacists do the final check once the prescription is complete. “What we’re doing is ensuring that we have the properly trained workforce to be able to do those backend activities without the pharmacist and then present it to the pharmacist only.”
Rite Aid also places the top 100 prescription bottles in every store in close proximity to technicians. “Instead of the technician walking all over the store, they can have the majority of the prescriptions that they fill in proximity,” she said. “Once you take less steps, you are becoming more efficient and you can do more with your time.”
Rite Aid’s pay-and-go system, which enables a customer to pay for their prescription on their app is yet another efficiency booster. “This is important, especially with COVID, that when customers walk into the store, we are not wasting time at the register,” she noted. “If the transaction takes three minutes, we can pull those three minutes out of the transaction and then utilize a minute or two of that time to have a more meaningful conversation with customers.”
Beyond efficiency improvements, Rite Aid has been concentrating on redesigning stores and changing up its merchandising offerings to reflect the chain’s new emphasis on whole health.
“We’ve provided training to our pharmacists across our whole network that aligns to these whole-health-related topics, such as sleep, stress, immunity, and pain management,” said Erik Keptner, Rite Aid’s chief marketing and merchandising officer. “We also made sure that we had the products that represented not only traditional medicine, but also alternative medicine so the pharmacist can make a recommendation that spans that continuum between traditional medicine and whole health.”
Rite Aid has enhanced its beauty offerings too, adding clean and holistic skin care. It also is introducing beauty ambassadors at select stores — beauty experts who provide guidance and recommendations on beauty products and regimens that are trending.
Rite Aid also is adding a discovery area within beauty. “It’s more experiential and it revolves around beauty that goes from the inside out,” Keptner said. “What you put in your body, such as supplements, plays a large role in making you feel better. When you feel better you look better.”
As far as the look of the store, the lighting in the middle of the stores has been reduced. “This allows for full visibility across the stores so they are easy to navigate,” Keptner said. “There also is unique fixturing that highlights an increased level of assortment around key ingredients customers are looking for, including paraben and cruelty free, vegan, organic and non-GMO. Our merchandising philosophy has embraced the fact that customers buy on attributes rather than on brand today.”
Further change is taking place in the consumables category, where Rite Aid is showcasing more healthy snacking and healthy beverage options.
As Rite Aid adds more products that are related to whole health, such as CBD, other categories will be eliminated or narrowed, including its assortment of electronics, stationery, apparel and some household items, such as plungers, motor oils and WD-40.
While Rite Aid will to continue to provide the utmost in service to its senior customers, who are heavy users of pharmacy, Keptner said it is targeting 25- to 49-year-old female shoppers who are drawn to the whole-health category.
“They are the future pipeline of growth,” Keptner said, pointing out that the chain is using TV, radio, digital, CRM and targeted direct mail strategies to attract these customers. “We’re using a 360-degree campaign to drive the fact that Rite Aid is changing and we’re on this journey to become a whole-health destination.”
So, what does the future hold for a chain that is taking a futuristic approach?
Rite Aid is opening Stores of the Future in Boise, Idaho and Virginia Beach, and several additional markets are set to be announced.
Konrad summed up the future best with these words: “Our tag line, ‘We’re not just going to help you get healthy, but thriving,’ is what the profession needs and deserves. It’s an exciting time to be a pharmacist, and an exceptional time to be a pharmacist at Rite Aid.”