The retail behemoth of Bentonville, Ark., wants to lead Americans to better health habits, better nutritional choices and longer, healthier lives. It’s an ambitious mission for any retail chain, but given its long reach into the nation’s heartland, its enormous marketing clout and its massive consumer drawing power, Walmart’s ability to boost the nation’s health and longevity index may be unmatched by any other single entity save the U.S. government.
“We see ourselves as an open door to products and services that can help customers and associates live healthier lives,” said Walmart spokesperson Erin Hulliberger. “There is no retailer that can bring innovative solutions to drive down costs and bring access to health care like Walmart.”
The company is leveraging its scale and national presence to drive that retail health business model. “Walmart, as a whole, is committed to making health care and healthier food more affordable and accessible,” Hulliberger told DSN. “We believe we have an important role to play in being an entry point to health care and taking the mystery out of the cost of that care.”
Those comments reflect the evolution of Walmart’s increasing commitment to marketing health-and-wellness solutions, along with household products, groceries, electronics, apparel, furniture and sporting goods. Indeed, many of those product categories and others throughout the company’s more than 3,500 supercenters increasingly convey a health-and-wellness message. That message comes through not only in the grocery aisles with their growing focus on organic foods and healthier nutrition, but in such categories as electronics — where wearable health devices now share space with cell phone accessories, headphones and flat-screen TVs — and in sporting goods and exercise apparel, which project a fitness ideal. “We have many of the products customers need to start or continue their journey to a healthy lifestyle, such as fresh produce, apparel, exercise equipment and wearable technology,” said George Riedl, SVP and president of health and wellness for Walmart U.S.
It’s a marketing and merchandising approach that also incorporates a growing menu of clinical-care and disease detection and prevention services at the company’s more than 4,600 U.S. pharmacies. “We’re focused on preventive care and supporting overall well-being across our entire assortment — in stores and online — through in-store events, online education and an expanded assortment of products and services solutions,” Hulliberger said.
Bolstering Walmart’s health-and-wellness image are a series of companywide health and disease screening events. In October 2015, more than 10,000 Walmart pharmacists and other health professionals conducted what the company billed as “America’s Biggest Health Fair,” providing free screenings for blood pressure, glucose and vision, as well as immunizations nationwide. During the event, called Walmart Wellness Day, the chain screened more than 280,000 customers, administered nearly 52,000 immunizations and distributed more than 2 million free samples of healthier foods. More than 3,000 customers were advised to visit their health professional based on their blood-glucose results.
Early this year, Walmart and Sam’s Club combined for an even larger free screening event in more than 5,200 total locations. “As more than 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store, we’re committed and uniquely positioned to providing accessible and affordable health care,” Riedl said. “These screenings provide customers with a basic yet vital understanding of their general health conditions and ways to improve it.”
In late February, Walmart added more features to ease access to its pharmacy services — an expanded Walmart mobile app by which customers can quickly refill prescriptions, track order status and view pricing and easy-pickup details for the medicines.