Wal-Mart to unveil food/drug combo

Wal-Mart to unveil food/drug combo

Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – When Wal-Mart opens the doors on its newest concept store later this year, customers will find a standard food and drug combination store compressed into 40,000 square feet.

Identified as Wal-Mart Food and Drug Express on building plans submitted to the city of Bentonville, six to eight of these stores are reportedly in the works, although Wal-Mart has only confirmed locations in Bentonville, nearby Springdale and Sherwood, which is north of Little Rock.

The Wal-Mart Food and Drug Express will feature basic assortments in perishables, grocery, pharmacy and health and beauty care enhanced by typical service departments, such as photo and floral.

The new combo format, which will focus on shopping convenience will have two entrances. The left entrance will bring customers into the drug store side of the store, where aisles run parallel to the front wall and promotional bins are positioned in the aisle leading to the photo lab and floral area at the left rear of the store.

A dual lane drive-through pharmacy will be on the left side of the building, with the interior pharmacy department positioned along a side wall in the middle of the HBC department.

The right-side entrance will lead customers into the produce department and the grocery side of the store, where aisles will channel shoppers through frozen foods and deli to the meat department at the rear of the store.

This new concept for Wal-Mart could give drug chains an even bigger run for their money. While Wal-Mart’s traditional stores and many supermarket operators already offer a selection of drug store merchandise and a pharmacy, drug stores generally have a deeper merchandise assortment in many categories and provide unique elements that these retailers don’t, one of which is drive-through pharmacies.

By adding drive-through pharmacies, Wal-Mart can capitalize on a key convenience advantage an increasing number of chain drug stores have over large super-centers and discount stores. Wal-Mart has pharmacies in virtually every store, but consolidation in the chain drug industry has made it less dominant. Today, it ranks as the nation’s fifth-largest filler of prescriptions behind chain drug stores CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Eckerd. Last year, an estimated $3.8 billion of Wal-Mart’s total sales of $118 billion came from prescription drug sales.

Drive-through windows and the convenience they provide have proven to be a competitive advantage for drug stores that typically see huge sales increases when they relocate a strip center store to a free-standing location with a drive-through window.

Today, nearly half of Walgreen’s 2,400 stores and 569 of Rite Aid’s 4,000 stores have drive-through pharmacies.

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