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Envisioning an Ideal Model for RETAIL PHARMACY

INSIDE Retail pharmacy reckons with a radical shift in interior design. Page 22
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Facebook.com/DrugStoreNews linkedin.com/company/drug-store-news/ instagram.com/dsn_media DSN (ISSN 0191-7587) is published monthly 12 times a year by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rate in the United States: $150 one year; $276 two year; $17 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $204 one year; $390 two year; $20.40 single issue copy; Foreign: $204 one year; $390 two year; $20.40 single issue copy. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to DSN, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Vol. 46 No 1, January 2024. Copyright © 2024 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. 6 March 2024 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM 03.24 DEPARTMENTS 8 EDITOR’S NOTE 10 INDUSTRY NEWS 12 PRODUCTS TO WATCH 14 WOMEN IN THE NEWS 16 DSN ISSUES SUMMIT COLUMNS FEATURES 32 INSIDE BEAUTY Inside Beauty: Famous Males, Spike Sales? Travis Kelce and other famous males emerge as trendsetters in the grooming category 28 RETAIL DESIGN Design to Shine Retail pharmacy reckons with a radical redo 38 PHARMACY: REGIONALS Local and Lithe Regional pharmacies can micro-target communities and turn on a dime 42 REX AWARDS 2024: OTC PRODUCTS REX Awards 2024: OTC Products Drug Store News’ Retail Excellence Awards recognize manufacturers for innovation in over-the-counter remedies 49 HEALTH: SLEEP PRODUCTS Rest in Place The latest trends and innovations to help people fall asleep, stay asleep and feel well-rested 54 HEALTH: OTC Growth Time for Analgesics
aging population, cost-efficiency and increasing demand for topical analgesics are driving growth Vol. 46 No. 3 22 58 LAST WORD by David Orgel Envisioning an Ideal Model for RETAIL PHARMACY Playing a broad — and appropriately compensated — role in improving health outcomes is at the heart of ongoing drug store transformation

Top Model

Retail pharmacy is seeking changes to the business, but what will be the ideal model?


The retail pharmacy is undergoing massive transformation—some because of business conditions and others are intentional. Retailers are getting squeezed and, as a result, they are closing stores and being more strategic. On top of that, young buyers are partial to online e-commerce outlets, big box department stores and specialty beauty outlets.

But retail pharmacies also have been expanding the role they play in the healthcare ecosystem, offering screenings, immunizations, chronic disease management and more. They also are eyeing a future in which they are more seamlessly integrated with the healthcare infrastructure and rewarded for an expanded scope of responsibility. The only question is: What does that look like?

Our cover story this month (Page 22) takes a look at various scenarios of retail pharmacy’s future—one with pharmacy benefit manager reform, one where pharmacy is a one-stop health destination and one where pharmacists operate at the top of their licensure.

While we were at it, we also took a gander at what pharmacies could look like—literally. Our second feature (Page 28) explores what would be the impact of adding a dynamic look to physical stores. Could it be part of an overall strategy for winning back customers lost to competition online and new concept stores that offer many of the same products and services?

Store design is mostly about the customer experience. Our reporter talked to many sources who believe that stronger interior design concepts could help lure back and capture new customers, especially as traditional pharmacies are poised for a transformative shift to becoming holistic healthcare hubs.

“What the consumer-experience proposition settles on is really understanding the purpose of a place and having a strategic design approach for that specific location,” said Lara Marrero, a principal and retail and consumer experience leader in London for global architecture firm Gensler. “When you understand the ‘why’ behind a place, [meaning] what it is the brand is trying to do in that particular location within the brand fleet, [then] you can ask ‘How can we arrive at a design that really captures that community?’”dsn

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Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick

Chief Financial Officer Jane Volland

Chief People Officer Ann Jadown

Chief Strategy Officer Joe Territo

Chief Operating Officer Derek Estey


John Beckner, NCPA

Becky Dant, Costco

J. Jeremy Faulks, Thrifty White Pharmacy

Doug M. Long, IQVIA

Nancy Lyons, Health Mart Pharmacy

Katie Scanlon, Publix Super Markets

Heidi Snyder, Drug World Pharmacies


Walmart to acquire Vizio for $2.3B

Walmart and Vizio have entered into an agreement for the retailer to acquire Vizio for $11.50 per share in cash, equating to a fully diluted equity value of approximately $2.3 billion.

The acquisition of Vizio and its SmartCast Operating System would enable Walmart to connect with and serve its customers in new ways, including television and in-home entertainment and media experiences. It also will create new opportunities to help advertisers connect with customers, empowering brands with differentiated and compelling opportunities to engage at scale and to realize greater impact from their advertising spend with Walmart.

The combination would be expected to further accelerate Walmart’s media business in the U.S., Walmart Connect, bringing together Vizio’s advertising solutions business with Walmart’s reach and capabilities. These benefits would be further strengthened by the growth of connected TV platforms and Walmart’s industry-leading TV panel sales.

Target unveils low-price, owned brand

Target is debuting its new low-price owned brand, dealworthy, to give consumers value on nearly 400 everyday basics.

With dealworthy, Target is offering more options at lower prices, starting at less than $1, while strengthening its portfolio of owned brands. Dealworthy also is backed by a promise: If a consumer is not satisfied with any Target owned brand item, they can return it within one year with a receipt for an exchange or a refund.

The dealworthy assortment spans apparel and accessories, essentials and beauty, electronics and home items. Starting at less than $1 and with most under $10, dealworthy items will be among the lowest guests will find across Target’s assortment. In electronics, some items, like phone cases, will be priced 50% lower than any other brands sold at Target. The first dealworthy products arrived in store and on Target.com in February and new products will continue to be introduced throughout 2024 and early 2025, including power cords, undergarments, socks, laundry detergent, dish soap and more.

Consumers can shop dealworthy in stores and on Target.com, or with the retailer’s free services, including Drive Up and Order Pickup, in as soon as two hours with no minimum purchase and no membership fee required, or delivered to their doorstep through Target’s same-day delivery with Shipt in as soon as an hour. dsn



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New and Noteworthy

HRG’s five notable products from February

After seeing a huge jump in January, product introductions for the month of February slowed some. But it still remained relatively strong compared to the latter half of 2023.

For the month of February, suppliers introduced 210 new products, which is 68 fewer items than the 278 products suppliers released in January. Waukesha, Wis.-based HRG reviewed nine products in the health category, 92 items in the wellness sector and 109 items in the beauty aisle to see which ones stood out as Products to Watch.

Here are the ones to watch:

1. ZzzQuil Sleep Nasal Strips Clear

Procter & Gamble said it created ZzzQuil Sleep Nasal Strips to reduce snoring, improve breathing and provide a better night sleep. Each strip is drug-free, unscented and features a four-point pull design to open the nose. The strips have gentle adhesion with maximum staying power for a comfortable fit that stays on all night with easy, irritationfree removal, the brand said. The strips are designed to be safe for nightly use. It comes in a 26-ct. pack

2. Olly Plant Powered Rest Adaptogens Capsules

Olly Plant’s Powered Rest Adaptogens is a melatonin alternative that is made with valerian root, passionflower and chamomile to support relaxation and a good night sleep. Olly said adaptogens are plants, herbs and botanicals that aid in physical and emotional stress balance. The product comes in 30 counts per package.

3. Vitron-C Iron + Vitamin C For Women Tablets

Vitron-C Iron + Vitamin C for Women from MedTech

Products includes 125 mg of vitamin C and 65 mg of elemental iron to help boost energy and support a healthy immune system for women during their menstruating years. MedTech claims the vegan tablet formulation is gentle on the digestive system, is gluten-free and includes no artificial flavors or colors. A bottle comes with 60 tablets.

4. Band-Aid Pro Heal Bandages Regular

Kenvue said it has introduced Band-Aid Pro Heal Bandages in regular and larger sizes to provide better wound healing by 60%. Each bandage is designed to be 100% waterproof and stay on for up to 48 hours, even with washing and showering, reducing the amount of bandage waste. The company claimed the hydrocolloid gel pad is meant to prevent the appearance of scars with dual action to seal and protect the wound. One pack has 10 bandages.

5. Tom’s of Maine Deodorant Wild Lavender

Tom’s of Maine Wild Lavender vegan deodorant for women and men is designed to protect against odor and wetness for all day freshness, the company said. The updated formulation is dermatologist tested, includes aloe vera, and is made without aluminum, artificial fragrances, dyes and parabens. Tom’s of Maine said each container is made with 100% recycled plastic. A bottle contains 3.25 oz. dsn


Pioneering Wellness

Dr. Linh Lee, director of pharmacy for Ralphs Pharmacy, is creating a holistic and nutritional framework combining pharmacy and nutrition

Dr. Linh Lee, director of pharmacy for Ralphs Pharmacy, caught up with Drug Store News to discuss a roadmap toward holistic health through a nutritional lens.

Drug Store News: How do you view the evolving role of pharmacies in promoting holistic wellness?

Dr. Linh Lee: Improving community health and wellness involves more than just relying on medications for disease prevention. A crucial aspect of long-term well-being is the adoption of a healthy lifestyle, and a significant contributor to this is nutrition management. By focusing on healthier food choices and lifestyle changes, individuals can reduce the burden of medical conditions in the long run and take a preventative approach to their well-being.

One approach I take to promoting health within the communities is to leverage the expertise of the pharmacists in our grocery stores. These healthcare professionals are readily accessible to patients and can play an integral role in guiding individuals toward better health choices. In the context of food and nutrition, pharmacists can provide valuable recommendations for healthier food options, assisting customers in making informed decisions during their grocery shopping.

DSN: In what ways has your pharmacy embraced the concept of holistic wellness?

LL: Effectively managing both acute and chronic conditions involve a dual approach that includes the right medication and proper nutrition

“Pharmacists are equipped with extensive knowledge not only on drug usage but also on various interactions that can impact an individual’s health.”
-Dr. Linh Lee, Ralphs Pharmacy

management. Pharmacists, as healthcare professionals, play a crucial role in this comprehensive healthcare strategy. Pharmacists are equipped with extensive knowledge not only on drug usage but also on various interactions that can impact an individual’s health. This includes expertise in understanding drugdrug interactions, drug-disease interactions, and equally important, drug-food interactions. Moreover, pharmacists are well-versed in recognizing interactions with dietary vitamins and supplements. As pharmacists, our broad understanding of these interactions allows us to educate patients, ensuring medication regimens align with nutritional needs.

DSN: Can you elaborate on programs or initiatives your pharmacy has implemented to educate about the connection between nutrition and wellness?

LL: Embracing the concept of “Food as Medicine,” Kroger and Ralphs Grocery

Company have taken a personalized approach to transform the way people view and shop for food, ultimately contributing to healthier lives. The Kroger initiative recognizes the profound impact that dietary choices can have on overall well-being and seeks to empower individuals to make informed and personalized decisions about their food intake and enjoying food.

At the core of this approach is a commitment to understanding that food is not just sustenance but a powerful tool for promoting health. By integrating a personalized perspective into the shopping experience, Kroger aims to guide individuals toward food choices that align with their unique health needs and goals.

Dr. Linh Lee is the Director of Pharmacy for Ralphs Pharmacy, a division of The Kroger Company. Linh has been with Kroger for 22 years and has held a variety of roles within the company. dsn


DSN Industry Issues Summit: 2024 Shopper Outlook

Deborah Weinswig, founder and CEO of Coresight Research, provided an in-depth look at the consumer of 2024

What does the 2024 shopper look like?

Deborah Weinswig, founder and CEO of Coresight Research, provided an updated picture during her keynote at Drug Store News’ 25th annual Industry Issues Summit, in December.

One of the biggest trends Weinswig cited is the change in the way people are consuming. She said that in September the head of innovation of one of the largest grocers told her, “‘Everything we’re seeing is this move back from traditionalism.’ Everyone is trying to remember what things were like before the pandemic. They are trying to spend in that way,” Weinswig said.

Weinswig gave the example of how people bought Halloween candy much earlier than usual, and stores ran out of candy. “Everyone wanted to make sure they delivered the best for their family. People have been really early and really prepared,” she said.

Awareness of ChatGPT and OpenAI is another trend that Weinswig foresees continuing. “People know there is something new that is coming. Most of us believe it will augment humans, but it also will change. These technological innovations are taking time away from tasking, and moving us to selling,” Weinswig said. As a result, customer service is better.

“What we’re seeing is a real change in terms of spending,” Weinswig said. “There may be ways going forward to tweak what you have and to do it really fast. Right now on average about 30% of time is being given back to employees.”

When it comes to healthcare, Weinswig pointed out that we have a massive shortage of doctors, nurses and pharmacists and that for the first time on record the life expectancy in China was longer than in the U.S.

“The 30- and 40-year-olds display as people in their 50s and 60s. A lot of this is driven by obesity and heart disease,” she said. She also talked about growth in hyper personalization in health care. “If you wear an Apple watch, have an iPhone, etc. you expect you can sell your data to Walmart, if you scape all your data on Google, you can sell it to them. There’s an opting in. If you’re shopping in the grocery store, there’s an opportunity to think about health and wellness differently.”

Loyalty and rewards programs for employees and consumers also are on Weinswig’s radar in 2024.

“We’re seeing gamification of the consumer,” Weinswig said. “Shoppers start to feel a different level of relationship with you.”

To that end, Weinswig advised that companies can award employees for their involvement in learning things such as how to save time, CRM or how to handle a difficult customer call.

Convenience, whether it means close to home or getting a lot done, also is a trend that Weinswig is watching, but she cautioned that products have to be in stock to be considered convenient.

“If you think about price, mark downs, in stock and on shelf availability these are real challenges for consumers,” she said. “This goes back to pharmacists. If one product is out, can you substitute for another?”

People slimming down also has had a significant impact across all of retail,

especially when it comes to apparel, footwear and accessories.

Weinswig said many of Coresight’s apparel clients this holiday season didn’t have the right sizes, noting that consumers are starting to rethink where they shop.”

Frugality and a significant focus on own brand, private label and exclusive brands also is a trend that is becoming entrenched with consumers. “For many retailers, private or own label is over 40%. That drives a lot of loyalty, once you start to get used to a product,” Weinswig said.

Weinswig’s picture of the consumer of 2024 also includes precision medicine, especially in rural markets. “There’s a huge demand there,” she said.

Lastly, Weinswig said ChatGPT 4 presents a great opportunity. “It’s easy,” Weinswig advised. “There’s an opportunity to work together, and it doesn’t matter if you are competitors.” dsn


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1. Bari B, Corbeil MA, Farooqui H, et al. Insulin injection practices in a population of Canadians with diabetes: an observational study. Diabetes Ther. 2020;11(11):2595-2609. . Rini C, Roberts BC, Morel D, et al. Evaluating the impact of human factors and pen needle design on insulin pen injection. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2019;13(3):533-545. 3. Frid AH, Kreugel G, Grassi G, et al. New insulin delivery recommendations. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016;91(9):1231-1255. embecta, formerly part of BD. BD is the manufacturer of the advertised products. embecta and the embecta logo are trademarks of Embecta Corp. BD and the BD Logo are trademarks of Becton, Dickinson and Company. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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DSN Industry Issues Summit: How VillageMD is transforming health care

A fireside chat at DSN’s Industry Issues Summit highlighted VillageMD’s focus on patient care

Adam Chesler, senior vice president of pharmacy at VillageMD, sat down with Valerie Mondelli, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of RevSpring, at Drug Store News’ 25th Industry Issues Summit in December to discuss how VillageMD is transforming health care. Here is an edited version of their conversation.

Valerie Mondelli: You’re serving underserved communities in rural settings. Talk about your mission and your unique advantage.

Adam Chesler: It’s about being accessible. At VillageMD, we often refer to the right time, right place and right care for the patient–being accessible for our patients where they are, and making sure they have access to care where and when they need it.

VM: What does value-based care mean to VillageMD?

AC: I’m a pharmacist by training. Going into this venture and joining VillageMD was exciting. VillageMD understood the value of a pharmacist. For example, as a pharmacist, when we started providing immunizations

to patients, we had some doctors who thought pharmacists were taking revenue away from them. In the value-based care model, that mindset shifts. It’s now ‘thank you for providing our flu shots. We need the capacity to see our patients for higher acuity care.’ It’s not about fee-for-service anymore. It’s about total care for the patient under value-based care.

VM: Elaborate on the pharmacist’s role.

AC: Having a retail pharmacy partner makes accessibility to care so much easier. We’re partnering in many different areas, for example adherence. Getting pharmacists to understand adherence is more about keeping a patient well than it is about filling an additional script.

VM: Tell us more about value-based care.

AC: I’ll share another example; Medication reconciliation post discharge. One focus of value-based care is knowing that every time a patient shows up in a hospital it can cost $15,000 to $20,000, but sometimes it’s not preventable. The first place patients go when they leave the hospital is the pharmacy. One of the hardest

It’s not about feefor-service anymore. It’s about total care for the patient under valuebased care.

things for us to do as providers for highrisk patients when they get discharged is to get them to show up in our clinic. They are tired and just want to go home. We call, email and text them and ask, can you come in? We need to see you, to make sure your medications are correct.

VM: What digital tools and self-serve technology are you using?

AC: We want to make sure the patient gets health care that’s convenient for them. For example, preregistration. When we think about digital tools, it’s accessing the patient, hitting the patient where they need it. If you register before your appointment it not only saves the patient a ton of time, but also clinic staff can be better prepared for your visit. If you get text messages about medication reminders or delivery, billing for the medication before delivery or a text message notification letting them know the prescription is having issues, we reduce confusion and unintended consequences. At VillageMD we reach out to our patients where they want to be reached. dsn


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DSN Industry Issues Summit panel: How collaboration and technology are improving health in communities

Panelists discussed advances and innovations in improving community health

How are collaboration and technology improving health in all communities? That was the focus of a panel at Drug Store News’ 25th Industry Issues Summit.

Moderated by Shannon Huneke, strategic partnerships innovator and executor at Accenture, the panel included Jason Ausili, EnlivenHealth, an Omnicell Innovation, head of pharmacy transformation; Diane Borton, CareSource Community & Retail Partnerships director; Stacy Burch, Embecta vice president, North America Marketing; Anna Prilutsky, Haleon Head of North America Research and Development; and Dr. Marc Watkins, chief medical officer at Kroger.

Prilutsky shared how Haleon is addressing health equity, with its focus on the importance of maternal health and nutrition as well as attention to seniors at risk.

“Everything we do begins with a deep human understanding of where the needs exist and communities,” she said. “We’ve partnered with Economist Impact. We get access to Health Inclusivity Index and we’re on a three year journey. Where we get the disproportionate impact, how a healthy start in life is critical and it impacts, not just the mom, but the baby, the whole family and the community at large.”

Prilutsky shared the example of Centrum’s recent launch of a prenatal and postpartum vitamin range in gummy form. Haleon wants

to ensure that the products are accessible to those communities that are most in need. “We have on that specific range a QR code that gives education when the mom needs it, in the language she understands,” Prilutsky said.

The discussion proceeded with Burch sharing how Embecta is using technology and data to address needs and barriers around SDOH.

“Our mission is to get patients to a life unlimited by diabetes,” Burch said, noting that working on dispensing data, Embecta found that there was a significant disparity between the insulin a patient was getting and the pens, needles and syringes they needed to inject.

“Embecta set upon a mission to look at an unbranded campaign that focused on proper injection techniques, as well as adequate supplies so we could ensure no matter where you were, no matter if you had insurance or not, whether education level was there or not, how could we reach you in a time partnering first and foremost with the pharmacist,” Burch said.

The discussion continued with Borton weighing in on where there’s an opportunity to start thinking about strategic partnerships. Partnering with community-based and faithbased organizations has been critical in reaching that population. “Where they play, pray and pay,” Borton said. “We want to make sure we can have a presence there and partner with trusted brands and alliances within the community.”

Lastly, Watkins addressed how Kroger thinks about holistic health with its associates and individuals in the community.

“When you have a large distributed population like this, we begin to represent an over index by disease categories that is pretty consistent at the zip code level,” Watkins said. “When you look at zip codes that have the ability to have resources and access to care, you tend to see upwards of 10 years of productive life differences between marginalized zip codes.” One of Kroger’s initiatives revolves around eating the right foods.

Kroger’s food scoring system, OptUp, gives consumers the ability to scan the UPC code or bar codes of foods to get a rating system that’s proprietary to Kroger but applicable to understanding the severity of a disease in a population, using food and a food score as a marker for health in a community, Watkins explained.

Kroger wants to make sure that its solutions are equitable, meaningful and timely for its associates “If we believe we cover those bases we’re able to deliver care in a model that can be consumed and take action,” Watkins said “We’ve launched under that umbrella of the healthiest workforce in America, how do we increase activation around PCP adoption, how do we increase activation around things like prevention, screenings and how do we equip folks with the right care at the right time?” dsn


Envisioning an Ideal Model for RETAIL


Playing a broad— and appropriately compensated—role in improving health outcomes is at the heart of ongoing drug store transformation

Retail pharmacies have been expanding the role they play in the healthcare ecosystem, offering screenings, immunizations, chronic disease management and more. But while this pathway toward a more ideal operating model is filled with opportunities, it is also rife with regulatory and operational hurdles.


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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight on the value that drug stores can provide, pharmacy retailers and the industry groups that represent them had begun considering a future in which they were more seamlessly integrated with the greater healthcare infrastructure and rewarded for an expanded scope of responsibility.

“We were already beginning to say, what’s next for the industry and what would the future look like?” said Steve Anderson, president and CEO, National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

That future involves not only pharmacists operating at the top of their licensure, but it also includes a focus on the total store’s overall contribution to health and wellness, as exemplified by efforts such as NACDS’ support for “food is medicine” initiatives.

“I think what we’re focusing on is really creating the ideal one-stop-shop for all Americans in terms of their health,” said Anderson.

Key to the success of any retail pharmacy operating model that emerges will be a payment framework that supports it, he said, which is why NACDS continues to push for reforms in the way pharmacies are reimbursed for their services and in the way pharmacy benefit management companies operate.

“If we don’t get PBM reform and pharmacies continue to close, we can’t provide those services,” said Anderson.

Likewise, the National Community Pharmacists Association also has been “laser-focused” on changing the pharmacy payment model and increasing pharmacy reimbursements for Medicare- and Medicaidcovered prescriptions, said Ronna Hauser, senior VP, policy and pharmacy affairs, NCPA. These two programs combine to account for about half of a typical pharmacy’s business, she said. “It’s very important to get the best reforms in place to allow our members to continue to care for these patients, and allow our members to remain viable in their communities.”

Among the reforms NCPA is seeking are a reimbursement floor in Medicaid-managed care and a reform in Medicare part D pharmacy payments, both of which are currently included in legislation that is currently active in Congress. “Those are our top two payment reforms that we’re trying to get passed by Congress and signed by the President,” said Hauser.

The result of such legislation would be more stable and predictable payment for the prescriptions that pharmacies dispense, Hauser explained, which would assist retailers in their business planning and management.

Anderson noted that there has been considerable, bipartisan momentum behind the legislative efforts for pharmacy reimbursement and PBM reform, both at the federal and state levels. NACDS has helped push through dozens of favorable reforms around pharmacy payments at the state level, he noted.

Beyond Vaccines and Testing

In an ideal world, retail pharmacies would have Medicare provider status granted at the federal level, which would allow pharmacies to be compensated for more services—a key element of expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice. The “test-and-treat” legislation introduced last year in the form of the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act would expand Medicare coverage to include some services and supplies provided by a pharmacist related to testing, vaccines and treatment for COVID-19, influenza and certain other illnesses. This expanded scope would include the ability for pharmacists to prescribe treatments for specific illnesses.

Related to this are efforts to extend the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which has allowed pharmacists to test and vaccinate for COVID-19 for the past three years but is scheduled to expire in April 2024.

NACDS and NCPA are working at both the federal and state levels to ensure that retail pharmacies can continue to perform these additional services, and, more importantly, can be compensated for them.

“It is basically building on some of the work that was done during the pandemic and making sure that pharmacists are still able to be access points for services,” said Hauser. “It’s ensuring that pharmacists can be paid appropriately through the medical benefit for the care they’re providing in addition to the prescriptions they dispense.”

Rick Gates, senior VP and chief pharmacy officer at Walgreens, said retail pharmacists are ideally positioned to assume a more active role in

I think what we’re focusing on is really creating the ideal one-stop-shop for all Americans in terms of their health.
--Steve Anderson, president and CEO, National Association of Chain Drug Stores.



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the treatment of patients, given the fact that they are already highly trained and trusted healthcare professionals.

“When deeply embedded within local communities, they possess a wealth of expertise that can be strategically used to enhance patient care,” he said. “By granting pharmacists the authority to prescribe for low-acuity health issues such as respiratory illnesses, we can better leverage their expertise to deliver essential healthcare services quickly.”

This would not only make healthcare more accessible, particularly in underserved communities, but would also align with the broader goal of improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs, Gates said.

Retail pharmacies, Gates continued, can also deliver care quickly, another advantage they have compared to traditional models in which patients rely on their primary care providers (PCPs) and emergencyroom visits for diagnosing and treating routine conditions, for example. “Empowering pharmacists with enhanced prescription capabilities would serve as a crucial bridge in addressing this challenge,” he said.

Allowing pharmacists to operate at the full scope of their licenses and take a more proactive role in overseeing minor conditions creates a dynamic support system for both healthcare providers and patients, he said.

“This approach not only promotes greater medication adherence but also identifies potential barriers to effective care management before patients see a PCP or in between appointments,” said Gates.

In its recent Rx Report, CVS also highlighted the potential for retail pharmacies to add value in the total healthcare landscape.

“Community pharmacists are increasingly seen as true partners in patient care, helping to fill gaps between regular provider visits, addressing health inequities and offering trustworthy, accessible and affordable services when patients need them most,” the report concluded.

Expansion of Services at Walgreens

Gates said Walgreens is working to broaden the scope of its platform in each of the communities in which it operates, using a fee-for-service approach. This is a payment structure in which healthcare providers are compensated for each service performed. “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted pharmacists as crucial healthcare access points and cemented pharmacies as the front door to healthcare in America,” he said.

Walgreens remains “open and fully prepared” to evolve to alternative reimbursement models that fairly reimburse pharmacies for the value they provide, said Gates. That includes taking on risk-sharing arrangements, he said.

“Looking ahead, we believe the future of pharmacy is grounded in a value-based, patient-centered approach that prioritizes the quality of care rather than the traditional fee for service,” said Gates. “This aligns with industry trends that prioritize holistic health services. Pharmacy services can be folded into a value-based care model, leveraging existing infrastructure for diagnostic testing and data exchange, and allowing seamless integration.”

He also noted that pharmacies have been long recognized for their role in preventive care but are increasingly “transcending their traditional functions,” and becoming “holistic healthcare hubs.”

Pharmacies are now offering a broad array of services, including vaccine administration and immunizations, health screenings, chronic disease management and lifestyle counseling – areas in which Walgreens is actively expanding its offerings, he said.

When deeply embedded within local communities, [pharmacists] possess a wealth of expertise that can be strategically used to enhance patient care.
-Rick Gates, senior VP and chief pharmacy officer, Walgreens.

Community-based care models

Kate Maheu, associate partner in the healthcare and life sciences practice of consulting firm Kearney, said an “ideal” retail pharmacy model would offer a roster of services based on the specific needs of the communities it serves.

For some locations, this could include more acute care, such as providing walk-in clinical services, such as diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications to treat them. For others, a community-based model might focus on what she described as a more “longitudinal” care that focuses on the treatment of chronic conditions over time.

“Those could all have different levels of impact depending on what’s most needed in different communities,” said Maheu. “What does that care model look like for each community that they are a part of? There are a lot of different variations and different value drivers depending on where you’re located.”

Increasingly, technology will help retailers customize their offerings for each location, she said.

“I think we need to be pushing the boundaries and thinking through what kinds of offerings are best positioned for a high-touch, high-trust retail environment and, importantly, the impact that creates across the broader healthcare ecosystem,” said Maheu.


One of the ways the industry is seeking to move in that direction is through the support of nutritional services provided in connection with the pharmacy, said Anderson. NACDS last year launched a campaign called Nourish My Health in partnership with other health associations, focusing on the protective health benefits of a nutritious diet.

NACDS is also currently partnering with the Milken Institute, a healthcare think tank, on additional initiatives, including an effort to expand the abilities of retail pharmacies to provide “food prescriptions” for patients.

Technology Creates Diverse Opportunities

In its recent Rx Report, CVS cited the increasingly important role that technology will play in retail pharmacies going forward, both behind the counter to ease labor pressures and in digital connectivity with customers.

“While most Americans want enhanced technology and expanded digital services, they still want to engage with their pharmacist in multiple ways, including both in-person and by phone,” the report concluded. “The future of pharmacy integrates a digital-first, but not digital-only, approach to improving the overall patient and pharmacist experience.”

NACDS, meanwhile, has co-founded a group called the AI Council that is focusing on the impact artificial intelligence could have on the industry. “Every company will take a different path on this, but we’re providing the platform and the environment to have these discussions moving forward,” said Anderson.

AI could play an important role in the discovery of new treatments, and in medication therapy, for example.

“It dovetails with pharmacogenomics and we don’t know what else yet, but we’re having those discussions,” said Anderson. “We’ll have a seat at the table as these issues develop, both in terms of what our members are doing, and how government responds to them as well. It’s an exciting, exciting time for retail health.” dsn

I think we need to be pushing the boundaries and thinking through what kinds of offerings are best positioned for a hightouch, high-trust retail environment and, importantly, the impact that that creates across the broader healthcare ecosystem.
-Kate Maheu, associate partner, healthcare and life sciences practice, Kearney

New Pharmacy Operating Models

The store-level operating model will need to be tailored to suit the evolving scope of retail pharmacy, said Kate Maheu, associate partner, healthcare and life sciences practice, Kearney. A model that offers acute care solutions, for example, might require extended operating hours and multiple types of clinical rooms and waiting areas. It would also likely have some connectivity with medical providers in the community to ensure that more specialized or emergency on-call services are available.

She cited the challenges that adding services such as vaccines and testing during the pandemic posed for retailers, which are lingering today in the form of overwhelmed pharmacy departments.

“I think a lot of retail pharmacies squeezed vaccinations into their operational capacity in a time of need,” Maheu said. “In order to make that sustainable, I think they would need to ensure that the experience was as convenient for customers as possible.”

The ubiquitous presence of retail pharmacies in communities across the United States indicates that these stores will always be inclined to merchandise a broad assortment of convenience items and products related to their health and personal care needs, said Maheu. “The value proposition will continue to include more than just pharmacy or pills in a bottle,” she said.

As pharmacy retailers add more services, their product assortments might also evolve to complement those changes, and the complexity of their operations could also evolve to accommodate connections with other healthcare providers in the community.

“That might require changes in skills and capabilities,” said Maheu. “You can envision that the role of a retail store manager might shift as you think about the mix of services, products and prescriptions across the location.”

Rick Gates, senior VP and chief pharmacy officer, Walgreens, said the evolution of the retail pharmacy operating model is empowering pharmacists to redefine their roles and improve patient outcomes.

“Incorporating technological advancements like telepharmacy, micro-fulfillment and mobile scheduling tools enables pharmacists to extend their expertise beyond medication dispensing,” he said. “This shift allows them to focus on building connections through patient counseling, analyzing comprehensive health profiles and collaborating with other healthcare professionals. This evolution in the operating model creates an environment where pharmacists receive the support and flexibility needed to provide essential services to patients. The result is heightened job satisfaction as pharmacists find renewed motivation and fulfillment in their careers.”


Desig n to Shin e

Retail pharmacy reckon with a radical redo

Pharmacies offer vital healthcare services, but they aren’t known for exciting interiors. So, adding a dynamic look to physical stores seems like an obvious strategy for winning back customers lost to competition online and concept stores that offer many of the same products.

But there’s little talk of a wide-scale redesign of U.S. drug stores amid closings: Though Rite Aid announced a store-of-the-future concept in 2020, it filed for bankruptcy and began selling stores in October 2023. CVS, which bought Target’s pharmacy business less than 10 years ago, announced in January it will shutter a chunk of those in-store locations. Meanwhile, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced in June 2023 it would close 150 U.S. locations and 300 in the United Kingdom, moves that its thenCEO Rosalind Brewer described as “actions to optimize profitability for our U.S. healthcare segment.”

As simple as it sounds, stronger interior design concepts can help lure customers back, especially as traditional pharmacies are “poised for a transformative shift to becoming holistic healthcare hubs,” as Walgreens chief pharmacy officer Rick Gates told Drug Store News. That’s a bold departure from previous norms, and toward a consumer experience, which is a high concept. And high concepts call for complex spatial design.

Overseas, some pharmacies and beauty retailers are early adopters of that thinking, with good results. In 2010, French drug store MaPharmacie (My Pharmacy) differentiated itself as a purveyor of natural remedies with a conceptual interior by designer José Lévy in one location that abstracted the traditional French pharmacy symbol, a green cross. Lévy reinterpreted it in a lush-looking artificial plant wall behind the medicine counter, green marble floors and green neon signs. In mirrored shelves, customers can also see themselves reflected as part of the store. The chain now has 20 locations.

Likewise, wildly popular Melbourne-founded skin care company Aesop has made high-end interior design part of its brand and a vehicle for memorable customer experiences. Each location is by a different outside design team on its long global list, including a redesign just completed at

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the Georgetown store by Houston-based architect Daimian Hines. “Their retail spaces always reference the typology of the community,” Hines explained. “We, as architects, tie that into some sensibilities of the company, such as nature. What you’re left with is a curated, defined designed space.”

This is known as placemaking, and experts agree that it is key to pharmacies’ survival in the new wellness, beauty and health marketplaces.

“One thing I remember growing up in Virginia was getting to go to CVS and spend some of my allowance on a pack of gum, lip gloss or little toy,” says Lara Marrero, a principal and retail and consumer experience leader in London for global architecture firm Gensler. “Now pharmacies are kind of in this weird space . . . . [They are] mega-pharmacies, where you’ve got beauty products, convenience [items] and homewares or even grocery—kind of a hybrid between a pharmacy and a big box retailer. What the consumer-experience proposition settles on is really understanding the purpose of a place and having a strategic design approach for that specific location. When you understand the ‘why’ behind a place, [meaning] what it is the brand is trying to do in that particular location within the brand fleet,”

That kind of deeply visual interpretation of how customer engagement looks in a modern drug store is likely an unfamiliar consideration at chains used to focusing on delivering health care, dispensing, product displays and signage. That’s one reason why third-generation-owned pharmacy Molecure in Taiwan hired Waterfrom Design in 2017 to bring its physical store into the 21st century. As in the French drug store, a non-traditional material palette served as the place-making device here: Waterfrom’s intervention of transparent, acrylic display cases, white pebble-clad walls and a wood dispensing counter carved from 100-year-old tree captured the brand’s regional connection to its 1,300-square-foot location.

Similarly, the brief for Hines’s Aesop renovation (which he couldn’t share in detail at the time this was reported) was for something

“thoughtful, engaging and connected to the community.”

Of course, conceptual store designs and moments of visual and experiential delight may still seem too localized (and too premium) to implement for most retail pharmacy brands. But design holds untapped benefits for them too, once the dust settles. “There’s a very interesting dynamic developing for a number of chain drug stores,” says Ibrahim Ibrahim, a managing director for Portland Design in London and author of Future Ready Retail.

The big threat to CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid, he says, is tied largely to a dwindling pharmacy

business, muted by online drug sales that now total more than $52 billion in the United States. “[These chains] have an existential issue, and it is that the online U.S. pharmacy market is growing at over 11% a year. If I was a drug store, I’d be very concerned how online [competitors] will disrupt my business.”

Addressing that specific concern is where Gates’s prediction of healthcare hubs comes into play. “If you’re a mass retailer, one certainty in life is that you’re not going to have as many stores as you do at the moment,” says Ibrahim. But they will always have some physical locations, and it will be critical to make smart decisions about where and how those remaining stores will be used.

Walmart Store of the Future Bakery Walmart Store of the Future Baby department Ulta Store Refresh

Ibrahim’s new notion of a physical space suggests that those precious few stores will shift from being transition and fulfillment platforms (places to buy and pickup drugs) to becoming two things: one, a media platform for health care, telemedicine and brand promotions; and two, community hubs for groups who share a particular interest in the brand or a wellness topic.

The scenario could work something like this, says Ibrahim: “With remote video consultation with doctors, why shouldn’t a drug store become a pod where you can book an appointment to talk to your doctor and pick up the drugs they just prescribed to you there in the pharmacy? We’re moving away from products for sale to the store as a ‘stage’ for putting on experiences.”

But these new third spaces still leave chains with buildings, the success of which depends more than ever on dynamic interior design. “Once we have that wow moment, we are chasing the next one,” says Marrero. “As we stop looking at a store as a simple, physical, density-driven experience, and look at it as a place for brands to connect with people, it changes that purpose of place.”

Certainly, big pharmacy chains have noticed a gap between their in-store experiences and consumers’ expectations, but are they more open when it comes to using truly creative interior design?

“Gensler has worked with people in this space from beauty brands to pharmacies to big box retailers,” Marrero says. “I believe they do understand the importance of creating that connection and they are seeking partners to help them solve for these experiences.”

After all, good design is good business. dsn


Retailers in other sectors have long made the connection that design has to marketing, branding and revenue generation (think Apple, Aesop or Nespresso). The right retail design is an essential part of who/what a brand is or what it wants to project to the world. Additionally, retail design is essentially about the users–a.k.a., customers.

“Store layouts must now allow for a seamless navigation from product discovery to purchase, but also enable value-add points of engagements that create enriching shopping experiences,” Forbes wrote last year.

In recent years, major outlets have undergone new store design that is intended to improve the customer experience.

Last year, Walmart celebrated the re-grand opening of 117 remodeled stores across the country, an investment of more than half a billion dollars in 30 states. “Each store is designed to deliver a more modern shopping experience and improve the lives of our associates and customers from the moment they step into the new space,” the retailer said.

The goal is simple: to meet customers wherever they are, leveraging the stores to welcome people to a more modern, highly-connected Walmart.

Ulta Beauty also has rolled out a new store layout that integrates prestige brands with mass offerings. Chief Merchandising Officer Monica Arnaudo told the Retail Dive that the new layout is less about mixing mass with prestige, and more about improved navigation and creating spaces to discover.

“One of the things that was really important for us is to improve the navigation in the stores so that when a guest is looking for skincare, for example, they don’t need to go all around the store to find it,” Arnaudo told Retail Dive.

Aesop, an Australian luxury cosmetics brand with a global following, has become known for its highend interior design that is now part of its identity. As a result, each of its slick locations is by a different outside design team on its long global list.

Finally, in 2022, Target announced the next evolution of its new store strategy and store design to better serve its guests and team members and drive continued growth. The retailer’s new largerformat stores are nearly 150,000 square feet (20,000 square feet larger than the chain average) and offer a more open layout and localized elements to inspire and serve its guests.

“Target’s stores are at the heart of how we deliver for our guests, whether they browse the aisles, shop online or stop by for same-day services like Order Pickup and Drive Up,” said John Mulligan, executive vice president and chief operating officer, Target. “Guests and team members tell us they come to Target because they feel inspired, connected and welcomed. With our reimagined store design and larger store footprint that better supports our sameday services, we can give guests more of what they love while incorporating features that build on our commitment to sustainability, community and helping all families discover the joy of everyday life.”

Walmart Store of the Future Home department

Famous Males, Spike Sales?

Travis Kelce and other famous males emerge as trendsetters in the grooming category

Travis Kelce is matching the impact on style as his uber famous girlfriend, Taylor Swift. The Super Bowl Sunday win has raised attention to a fever pitch.

Barbers across the country, including Kelce’s stylist Patrick Regan, are experiencing requests for similar haircuts. The buzzcut fade, of course, is not a new style and has been popular for decades in urban cities, but it’s just been worn on less famous faces. Now it’s gaining attention, and barbers link it to Kelce.

It isn’t just his tresses; Kelce has sported numerous facial hair looks over the years, including the bushy beard he maintained during playoffs and the Super Bowl. His evolving looks could inspire men to experiment with different styles.

Kelce is also a lightning rod for hair coloring; he’s an ambassador for Rewind it 10, a hair and beard dye brand co-founded by rapper Fat Joe.

The pharmacy industry has a particular soft spot for Kelce. He’s appeared

in advertisements sponsored by Pfizer supporting COVID-19 vaccinations.

Since women often purchase products for men, the Swift/Kelce relationship also elevates women’s awareness of products linked to the famous footballer. Apex Marketing Group estimates that Taylor Swift generated the equivalent brand values of $331.5 million for the NFL.

The Kelce and Swift tie-up can impact men’s sales in many ways, confirmed Brian Jeong, CEO and founder of Hawthorne, during a DSN webinar focused on the men’s market, including grooming product sales.

Kelce isn’t the only sports figure sparking sales of men’s personal care products. Houston


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Rockets basketball player Jalen Green became the new brand ambassador for Un/Dn Laqr, the nail polish brand from Machine Gun Kelly. Green frequently wears polish on the court. Alex Rodriguez helped launch HIMS makeup for men.

Beyond athletes, a recent tongue and cheek viral campaign starring actor Michael Cera claimed he created CeraVe. A Super Bowl ad for CeraVe put the rumor to rest with proof dermatologists developed the brand. The campaign’s attention raised men’s awareness of CeraVe as a men’s product, too.

Male influencers, such as Zak Heath @zak.heath and Rhahi Chadda @ Rahi_Chadda, are mainstreaming the concept of makeup for men.

Statista expects the men’s market will reach $115 billion by 2028, an increase of 30%. That’s healthy, but retailers think there is much more potential, especially in mass stores.

According to Circana data for the 52 weeks that ended December 31, 2023, sales in the mass channel were down or up slightly. The growth of men’s products sold through prestige stores is growing faster.

To flip the script, chains like CVS, Target, Walmart and Walgreens are adding items to court younger customers open to trying products beyond razors and shaving cream. Generation Alpha and Gen Z are also the most impacted by social media, where male influencers are emerging.

Retailers pin hopes on a younger generation of men who are open to buying a multitude of products. In anticipation of a boom, brands are delivering new ammunition to mass retailers to rev up men’s sales. Mintel data reveals men’s skin care launches are up 14.7%. There is a 12.3% jump in launches of hair treatment. There is also an 8.5% bump in genderneutral items, which could entice more men.

The playbook for men in 2024, according to brands contacted by DSN, include multi-functional products, hair care innovation, all over body deodorants, expansion of indie brands and the use of AI to aid men in product selection.

Solutions for thinning hair continue to drive men’s sales. Target, CVS and Walgreens have cleared out more footage for products to address hair issues. The roster includes standards like Rogaine, as well as newer mass entries including HIMS, Uncle Jimmy and Pura D’Or.

“The trend in the men’s category continues to be hair thinning/hair loss,” said David Horwitz, vice president of Vital’s International, the manufacturer of Pura D’Or. “Pura D’Or’s top sellers Hair Thinning Therapy Shampoo and Conditioner and Advanced Therapy Shampoo and Conditioner are very strong for the brand and support the trend.”

While men try to grow hair, they also focus on hair removal. Wahl continues to bring innovation to the category and its latest introduction engages technology.

Wahl is harnessing the power of AI with a virtual try-on experience called Style Selector. Users can test different hairstyles and facial hairstyles on avatar-versions of themselves. The Style Selector’s ‘Try Before You Trim’ technology allows men to see what styles look good on them.

“We’re excited to continue expanding new, innovative ways to enhance the consumer experience and instill the confidence to try a new look,” said Steven Yde, vice president of North America Consumer at Wahl. “The Style Selector offers men the opportunity to find a new hair or facial hairstyle

that best suits them in a realistic, fun way and be able to implement it at home.”

AI helps men make buying decisions, but brands are working to simplify the shopping experience—especially as men start making more of their decisions (versus relying on their female companion/wife).

Shelf space for men is limited and faces ROI scrutiny, according to Chris Lopez, marketing director for Okay Pure Naturals. “Retailers like the idea of multi-use, two-in-one items for men— like a body wash and shampoo in one. We are also

Statista expects the men’s market will increase and will reach $115 billion by 2028.



looking to tackle the issue of an affordable option for men with textured hair with a line of oils,” he said. There is a proliferation of choices for women with textured strands but few for men.

Products with dual purpose are also part of Nautica’s new The Grooming Collection. The cleanser, for example, also hydrates, according to the brand.

Deborah Dixon, the owner of Precious Mineralz LLC, agreed that the key to men is keeping it simple, multi-purpose and clean. She’s relaunching her Rich Body Polish with men in mind. “Women 35 to 65-plus are our main demographic to date, but we are beginning to see more purchases by men,” she said.

“The minimalist approach [to Rich Body Polish] is appealing to men who want to improve their skin care regimen but don’t want to have many products to achieve desired hydration, moisturizing, brightening and healthier skin,” she said.

Dixon foresees a return to clean-shaven faces that build on shaving sales but also ignites interest in the brand’s Renewing Face Cream. She advises retailers to add impulse items (lip balm) to traditional assortments like cleansers and exfoliators. “And look outside the current wellknown skin care companies for unique solutions to provide either a brand or private label.”

Richie Rubin, executive vice president of Garcoa Inc., gives the nod to niche brands as a growth vehicle. “While the large multinational corporations are excellent at managing their supply chain, they take so much longer to innovate,” Rubin said, adding that younger customers are on the hunt for innovation.

One retailer agreed that her stores have added incremental sales from emerging brands such as Duke Cannon, Cremo and Scotch Porter.

Overall, body deodorants, a relatively new category, are also gaining traction in the mass market, retailers said. It is an area they hope can make up for soft men’s fragrance sales. Spate data revealed that searches for body deodorants jumped 27% since last year.

Brands that offer total body deodorants include Unilever with Dove, Dove Men + Care and Shea Moisture and Procter & Gamble Native with its Whole Body Deodorant collection and Old Spice Total Body Deodorant Collections.

The Native range offers 72-hour odor protection with formulas that are gentle on sensitive skin and sensitive areas and are intended for use in the underarms, chest, privates and feet.

“We want to empower people to feel confident in their own skin, even during moments when life, well, stinks,” said Vineet Kumar, CEO of Native. “We’ve found that consumers are having to solve for normal body odor with compensating behaviors like multiple showers, changing clothes in the middle of the day, keeping distance from others, or using products not designed to address odor at the source.”

Procter & Gamble researched the impact body odor has on men’s lives. The company is addressing the issues with its new Total Body Deodorant collection. Dermatologist-tested with aluminum-free formulas, the range is available in three forms: Total Body deodorant spray, Total Body deodorant cream and Total Body deodorant stick.

“Body odor outside the armpits is something most people experience, but often suffer in silence,” said Kate DiCarlo, senior communications director, personal care portfolio at P&G. “We’re working to normalize total body odor with this approachable line that brings 24/7 freshness from pits to toes and down below with forms meticulously designed to cater to his personal preferences whether he wants broad protection or precision application.” Nongender personal care products are gaining steam, opening the debate on whether men’s products need their own man caves in stores.

“Personally, I feel strongly that retailers do not need ‘men’s’ areas. This perpetuates inequality and division,” Rubin Garcoa explained “While it will likely take the better part of a generation to cycle through this line of thinking, it is noteworthy that one cannot find a ‘woman’s area outside of clothing and fine fragrance. I am hopeful that gendered shopping stays away from liquid personal care products.” dsn


Local and Lithe

Regional pharmacies can micro-target communities and turn on a dime

Covering more than 3.5 million square miles, the United States is home to cities well-known for their food, sports and topography. Some areas are also distinguished by regional pharmacies. Not too small but not too large, these entities can microtarget local customers and turn on a dime to enact change, particularly when it comes to changing patient needs or implementing new revenue streams. Many regionals also employ pharmacists who have worked there for years.

These companies have done more than survive the onslaught of national chains. They have an advantage in a world where some nationals are grappling to meet financial goals and have reduced hours to cut costs. Other nationals are struggling to retain pharmacists–or they are burdened by top-heavy bureaucracy that makes it difficult for pharmacists to practice at the top of their licenses and serve patients at expected levels.

“Nationals are having a tough time,” said Matthew Hamory, partner and managing director in the retail practice at Alix Partners, New York. “Rite Aid is in bankruptcy, Walgreens is struggling financially and culturally and CVS seems a little behind the 8-ball, focusing on healthcare and not so much on retail pharmacy. This is a golden opportunity for regionals. There’s too many pharmacies and not enough pharmacists. Many pharmacists aren’t happy. Pharmacies in both regional drug chains and regional grocers can capitalize.”

Hamory predicts nationals will continue closing locations to the benefit of regionals. “This presents an opportunity to pick up share and customers. Welloperated regionals are typically better able to do a really good job and be relevant in one or several states.”

Mike McBride, VP, partner relations at Upsher-Smith, Minneapolis, said nationals’ strength is their size, while regionals are about executing details. “Nationals operate thousands of stores, but they find it more difficult to execute consistently,” he said. “Regionals can be local, be flexible and do it well. While unaffiliated, single-store independents may have limited resources, regionals may have more mass to engage in broad but local collaborative practice agreements. They know their market and can go deep. It’s not all about volume; it’s about quality of care.”

McBride cited Wegman’s (Northeast), H-E-B (Texas) and Thrifty-White (Midwest) as regionals who play at the top of their game. At Thrifty-White, more than half of revenue comes from “non-dispensing” activities, he added. “These regionals practice at the top of their license.”

Here is a look at several regionals and their successful programs:


Maple Grove, Minn.

100 locations

Serves: Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Wisconsin

Founded: 1884

A jewel in the regional trove, Thrifty-White serves rural populations of 5,000 to 50,000. The secret to success, said Jeremy Faulks, VP of pharmacy operations, is not leaving any details to chance.

“As a small regional, you must be good at what you do, from operations to procurement, ensuring you obtain the best costs and leveraging technology,” he said. “Over the past decade, we’ve been focusing more on patient outcomes



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• A complete product line of over 90 molecules and 450 SKUs.

• Fast, responsive customer service from experienced knowledgable reps you know and trust.

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and delivering clinical services, not just putting pills in bottles.”

Thrifty-White invests in people, making sure they have the right training, skills and the “time and space” to practice them, said Faulks. A patient-management platform lets Thrifty-White establish “all sorts of criteria on the back side,” letting staff know if patients need vaccinations or are eligible for other services. Pharmacists digitally document data. “It runs against a data warehouse and helps support billable claims.”

Today, 60% of prescriptions are filled via central fill, giving pharmacists more quality patient time. Thrifty-White also reduced OTC offerings to give each pharmacy three “mini provider” offices with sink, bench and wiring for telemedicine. “It’s like a mini clinic office,” he added. “During COVID, they were used for everything from vaccines to delivering antibodies.”

Thrifty-White does medication management and point-of-case testing for strep, COVID-19 and flu and prescribes medication “based on standing orders,” said Faulks. “Half don’t have a primary care doctor. Our pharmacist can step in.” But reimbursement can still be problematic, so the company hired a chief medical officer who supports pharmacies and gets credentials and contracts with various area health plans. “If we can’t bill as a pharmacy, we may be able to bill as a medical provider,” he added.


Sioux Falls, S.D.

62 locations

Serves: South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota

Founded: 1942

Lewis Drug prides itself on its one-on-one pharmacy service. But that is not all. Consumers can peruse a garden center and full selections of barbecue grills, outdoor furniture, seasonal merchandise and CPG products. There are 45 12,000-squarefoot rural locations. Stores in larger communities are 35,000 square feet. In six urban markets, Lewis co-locates with clinics run by Sanford Health System.

Over time, front-end merchandise has changed dramatically. But loyal pharmacists are still Lewis’ heart and soul. “Our people make us successful and our script growth is quite positive,” said Bill Ladwig, SVP of pharmacy. “I’ve been here 46 years and I’m not the oldest. We’re blessed to have a family component. While other pharmacies struggle to recruit people, we’re a career path destination. We have a good relationship with the college of pharmacy.”

Lewis listens to and rewards employees. “I’m not talking about the pizza thing,” he added. “Spend time on great culture, making sure employees have the best possible environment.”


Medina, Ohio

78 stores

Serves: Ohio

Founded: 1969

Employee-owned Discount Drug Mart emphasizes patient/pharmacist interactions. In addition to central fill, it has centralized its call center, data entry and data review. “We want to give pharmacists more time for patient care,” said Pete Ratycz, SVP pharmacy. “This reduces obstacles.”

Discount Drug Mart operates unique programs. During Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it identified 200 drugs that cause photosensitivity to the sun. It offered sunscreen samples and educational information to atrisk patients and operates Gentry Health Services, a specialty pharmacy, along with Professional Medical Equipment & Services, a durable medical equipment unit.

Vaccinations for flu, COVID-19 and RSV are available. “It’s the first time we offered all three vaccinations simultaneously,” said Ratycz. “Removing prescription volume made it easier.” Non-seasonal vaccines are available, too, as is medication synchronization.

Discount Drug collaborates with local payers and employee groups to conduct on-site immunizations and screenings for health conditions. It also tailors stores. One location in Parma, Ohio, serves a large Ukrainian immigrant population. In addition to Ukrainian signage, the store stocks OTC products popular among Ukrainians and employs a Ukrainian-speaking pharmacist.



Carlisle, Pa.

190 stores, 133 pharmacies

Serves: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia

Founded: 1923

With a full food selection, Giant Food can tap the expertise of both its pharmacists and dieticians, bringing the health and wellness message to patients most in need. Dieticians host hundreds of virtual classes on topics like diabetes management, heart health and healthy recipes. Dieticians also walk stores with shoppers to point out appropriate foods for special diets. And, pharmacists have access to more than 12 consumer-oriented educational resources created by dieticians.

“By combining strengths of our dietician and pharmacy teams, Giant offers a total health and wellness destination,” said Leigh Shirley, director of pharmacy operations.

Community outreach is important, with pharmacists and dieticians providing mobile immunization clinics and education programs. Vaccines include flu, pneumonia, RSV and shingles.

“We continue expanding off-site offerings beyond flu and COVID to meet communities’ needs,” said Shirley. Giant also offers travel medications, which have been expanded in some locations. And Giant continually expands the number of in-store consultation rooms to offer “more personalized services.” Pet medications are available as well.


Dubuque, Iowa

24 locations

Serves: Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin

Founded: 1904

Hartig Drug Co. is the epitome of local: its leaders serve on local non-profit boards or the PTA. During COVID-19, it partnered with almost every county health department to administer vaccines and therapeutics. With 75% of stores in rural areas, it participates in farmer’s markets and other community events and partners with local businesses, offering education and vaccine clinics.

It is also all about family. “On the surface, regional chains must look similar to nationals,” said Charlie Hartig, Pharm.D., JD, CEO, and great-grandson of founder, A.J. Hartig. “But when you’re a regional or independent, leadership and decision makers have a much better pulse on the community’s needs and who’s in it. We keep the local health community aware of what we’re doing. That’s a big benefit.”

Hartig is a hands-on manager who takes care of employees and patients. If a pharmacist cannot get to work due to weather, Hartig fills in. “We focus on having consistent service,” he said. “If someone calls from a farm and says they’re 20 minutes away, needs medication and we’re closing in 10 minutes, we stay open.”

Hartig Drug offers medication therapy management, for which it is reimbursed, and compliance packaging. The latter is popular among elderly people. And, it provides free Narcan and drug disposal services.

Pharmacy services are complemented by unique front-end offerings, including freeze dried candy from a local candy maker, organic soaps and frozen pizzas from nearby farmers and cinnamon breads from an area convent.


Lakeland, Fla.

1,250+ pharmacies

Serves: Southeastern states

First pharmacy opened: 1986

Publix founder George Jenkins taught some important lessons, including the value of “being there.” “There” is where the customers are, including a pharmacy operation that advocates for pharmacists to practice “at the top of their license,” said spokeswoman Maria Brous. “We continue evaluating services to meet the needs of customers.” And Publix is there for the whole family, including the pets whose medications it also stocks. And while many large pharmacies have cut hours to reduce expenses, Publix’ operating hours remain unchanged.

Pharmacy services/amenities include:

• Pharmacists review clinical intervention opportunities for patients, including vaccination history, adherence reminders and disease-specific therapy recommendations. Publix also offers walk-up vaccinations and an appointment system for scheduling immunizations.

• Central fill, specialty pharmacy and centralized compounding support retail locations.

• Medication synchronization.

• Prescription delivery via Instacart.

• Enhanced texting options to better communicate prescription progress and readiness with customers. dsn


REX Awards 2024: OTC Products

Drug Store News ’ Retail Excellence Awards recognize manufacturers for innovation in over-the-counter remedies

The over-the-counter drug industry is seeing growth in sales and in innovation. According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, retail sales of OTC medicines totaled $41.2 billion in 2022, up from $37.7 billion in 2021. The CHPA also noted that two first-in-class Rx-to-OTC switches occurred in 2023: naloxone hydrochloride, or Narcan, a nasal spray to treat opioid overdoses, and norgestrel, or Opill, to prevent pregnancy.

Consumers appreciate the convenience and accessibility of more routine OTC drugs. According to a Mintel report, A Year of Innovation in the OTC Medications Market 2023, pain is an important driver of many OTC sales, and 30% of U.S. adults consider targeted relief when purchasing OTC pain remedies. Pain is a wide-reaching category, and consumers shop for various benefits. Women seek deals, men rely on brand recognition, and younger shoppers seek clean formulations.

This year’s winners of DSN’ s REX Awards – OTC are companies that are developing innovative products in a variety of categories, all enabling retailers to help consumers self-treat issues.

CrossingWell Consumer Health

Family-owned CrossingWell Consumer Health’s expertise is revitalizing and maintaining heritage brands. The Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y.-based company has achieved consistent doubledigit growth year over year with this strategy.

In 2023 CrossingWell, formerly Randob Labs, relaunched the PediaCare brand. PediaCare is now available at several national and regional grocery and drug chains. The brand re-introduced five SKUs to the market, including Children’s and Infants’ Acetaminophen, Children’s Ibuprofen, Cough & Cold and Cough & Congestion.

“The brand was off the market for three or four years under previous owners,” said Jim Creagan, president and secondgeneration owner of CrossingWell. “We did some research, and PediaCare is still a very trusted name.”

In first aid, CrossingWell has two top performing insect bite and sting brands, Sting-Kill and Chiggerex. Both brands have been on the market for decades and have loyal customers. To bolster its first aid lineup, CrossingWell acquired Bacitraycin Plus and Zinc Oxyde Plus in 2021. Creagan said Bacitraycin Plus is the only nationally branded bacitracin ointment that contains the doctor recommended antibiotic for healing from minor cuts, scrapes and burns alongside soothing aloe.

In the baby space, CrossingWell has Balmex diaper rash cream and ointment, a brand the company acquired in 2018. Creagan said the company invested in new packaging and marketing guided by quantitative consumer research, and the result has been high consumer loyalty and repeat purchase rates at key retailers and expanded distribution into additional retailers.

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Doctor Easy

The developer of clinical and at-home ear wash, Doctor Easy Medical Products have been helping clinicians and consumers clear out impacted ear wax for more than 25 years. Doctor Easy invented spray ear wash technology for the medical community in 1997, and developed a home use version six years ago with the WaxRx Ear Wash System. “Since then, our sole focus has been on educating retailers and consumers about the availability of our professional grade ear washer in the ear care category,” said Marsha Garcia, president.

Garcia said the inspiration for the products comes from Doctor Easy’s background in patient care. WaxRx was fashioned after the company’s professional ear washers, invented for physicians in its walk-in clinics to treat patients for ear wax impaction. Doctor Easy brought the WaxRx all-in-one kit to retail, which expanded the ear care category for retailers and allowed patients to skip the doctor’s visit and realize cost savings and convenience.

Doctor Easy’s products include the original Elephant Ear Washer used in clinics, the Rhino Ear Washer with a smaller nozzle for one-handed use, WaxRx for use at home and Earvana Ear Wash ear cleansing system with a Vitamin C formula. In 2024, the Orange Park, Fla.-based company will continue to expand distribution of WaxRx so consumers can find professional grade ear wax relief at their favorite retailer.


A merging of the words “hale,” an old English word that means “in good health,” and “leon,” which is associated with the word “strength,” Haleon became a standalone company in 2022 after the demerger of Consumer Healthcare from GSK. The largest consumer healthcare company in the world, Haleon’s U.S. brands include Advil, Centrum, Emergen-C, Excedrin, Flonase, Gas-X, Nexium, Nicorette, Preparation H, Sensodyne, Robitussin, Theraflu, TUMS, Voltaren and more.

Haleon recently launched several products, including Sensodyne Clinical White premium whitening paste for visibly whiter teeth. The product offers up to two shades whiter teeth and 24/7 sensitivity protection. It is clinically proven to whiten, polish and protect teeth from future stains and is enamel safe. The company said the consumer insight that inspired the launch is that 86% of people with sensitive teeth also want whiter teeth, and current whitening OTC treatments can be tough on sensitive teeth.

Other new products include Voltaren Joint Health & Bone Strength Dietary Supplements and Joint Comfort & Movement Dietary Supplements; Advil Dual Action Back Pain with acetaminophen and ibuprofen; Centrum Maternal Health PreNatal Multivitamin Gummies, Morning Sickness Relief Gummies, and Maternal Health PostNatal Multivitamin Gummies; and Emergen-C Crystals for Immune Support.


Hyland’s Naturals

Hyland’s Naturals has a portfolio of products for babies, kids, moms and active consumers. The Los Angeles-based company’s products are manufactured in the USA in GMP facilities. The items contain no artificial flavors or dyes and are free of top allergens.

Among the newer baby care products is Hyland’s Naturals Organic Cough & Immune Daytime and Nighttime formulas, made with chamomile, organic agave and organic black elderberry. For baby skincare, the lineup includes Organic All Purpose Balm, Eczema Lotion, Organic Calming Balm and Diaper Rash Cream. For kids two to 12, newer items include Organic Cough & Immune Daytime and Nighttime formulas with organic agave, organic honey and organic elderberry.

For adults, in addition to legacy products such as Hyland’s Naturals Leg Cramps tablets, caplets, and ointment, the brand offers natural pain relief, vitamins, and immune support in gummies, capsules, ointments, and more. Among the newest items is Women’s Menopause Multi + Youthful Skin, which contains 18 essential nutrients for overall wellness, chasteberry and red clover for menopause support, and collagen and biotin for youthful skin.

Nordic Naturals

From its beginnings as a fish oil company, Nordic Naturals now offers more than 200 products, including omegas, probiotics, and vitamins and minerals. The company distributes products to 35 global markets. Nordic Naturals is the number-one selling fish oil brand in the United States, based on Stackline, Nielsen and SPINS annual sales data.

The Watsonville, Calif.-based company is committed to delivering safe and effective nutrients essential to health. Nordic Naturals also is committed to sustainability, and all the fish oils are Friends of the Sea Certified, which means they come from healthy fisheries.

“Our exceptionally fresh, pure, and effective ingredients distinguish our brand as a trusted leader in the supplement industry,” said Brian Terry, senior director of sales, retail.

For 2024, Nordic Naturals will focus on fish oil, and expand other product lines. Among the new products are Ultimate Omega One Daily, featuring the brand’s highest-concentration omega-3 fish oil in re-esterified triglyceride form to deliver essential fatty acid support for cardiovascular, brain and immune health, the company said. Men’s Multivitamin One Daily provides 20 essential vitamins and minerals in one highly bioavailable tablet. Women’s Multivitamin One Daily provides 20 essential vitamins and minerals in one highly bioavailable tablet. Kids Calm Gummies combine highly bioavailable magnesium with L-theanine to promote relaxation and a sense of calm in strawberry-watermelon gummies.


Total Resources International

For a variety of mishaps, there are Be Smart Get Prepared First Aid Kits & Emergency Preparedness solutions from Total Resources International. TRI kits span across multiple retail categories including HBC, outdoor, sporting goods, auto, industrial hardware and survival.

“We believe our innovation lies within our approach,” said Geolyn Gonzalez, chief sales and marketing officer. “We always design with the consumer in mind by creating products with solutions to fit their lifestyles.” The kits have a fun and playful aesthetic, to address serious first aid issues with a new and fresh approach. The brand’s intent is to change the mindset of consumers to be proactive instead of reactive.

In 2023, The Walnut, Calif.-based TRI launched DiabetesFriendly Wound Care Kits. “We noticed for those living with diabetes, there are solutions for their health, diet, and management, but nothing in the market for diabetes-friendly wound care,” Gonzalez said.

In addition to the BSGP first aid kits, TRI also has the Silvex brand, launched in 2018. “It has grown to be the new standard for silver first aid solutions and the go-to solution for wound care,” Gonzalez said. The lineup includes Silvex Nano Silver Wound Gel, which is available in more than 8,000 major retail stores nationwide, and Silvex Nano Silver Antibacterial Wound Wash, which was launched last year. This year the brand will launch Silvex Nano Silver Burn Gel, packaged in multiple singleuse sachets.


Xlear offers a comprehensive range of nasal hygiene products under the Xlear brand and oral care products under the Spry brand. Xlear Nasal Sprays include the drug-free Xlear Nasal Spray for daily use, Xlear Max with aloe and capsicum, Xlear Rescue with herbs and essential oils, Xlear Sinus Rinse, Kid’s Xlear and Xlear 12-Hour. Spray products include gum, mints, oral rinse, mouthwash, toothpaste, mouth moisturizing spray and gel, kid’s mouthwash and tooth gel.

All the products are made with xylitol, a natural sweetener that cleanses and moisturizes. The American Fork, Utah-based Xlear explores the antiviral potential of xylitol and related sugars, focusing on inhibiting viral infections and enhancing airway hygiene. “The inspiration for innovation comes from ongoing research, aiming to offer solutions for chronic sinus and respiratory issues, aligning with Xlear Inc.’s mission to promote holistic well-being,” said Joel Melton, director of marketing.

This year, the company will focus on Xlear Nasal Spray for daily use, sugar-free Xlear Cough Drops with xylitol that moisturize the mouth and soothe dry, itchy throats and a new 55-count bag of Spry Gum that enhances oral hygiene and facilitates convenient sharing of xylitol’s health benefits. Xlear is promoting the 55-ct. gum bag with a “DARE TO SHARE” campaign. dsn


Rest in Place

The latest trends and innovations to help people fall asleep, stay asleep and feel well-rested

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s rest. Except, of course, when you can’t get a good night’s rest. Technology, stress, distractions and the general state of affairs have made it more difficult for some people to unwind.

Quality sleep is crucial to the body’s functioning, and extended periods of poor sleep are not to be ignored. There also has been a collective shift in attitudes toward sleep and sleep aids, prompting consumers to browse the drug store aisles in the hopes of finding some relief.

“Getting a restful sleep is often an elusive goal for many adults, and with the increasing awareness of the correlation between sufficient sleep and overall health, the sleep aid category has seen double-digit growth across OTC products, natural sleep products, and devices, including those for sleep apnea,” said Jim Creagan, president of CrossingWell Consumer Health. “To get a better night’s sleep, consumers often seek a doctor’s advice and use a variety of OTC products and delivery forms.”

As a result, the sleep products market has grown considerably, and it looks like it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future

Melatonin’s rise and falter

People were already having trouble sleeping—then COVID-19 hit.

“The sleep category across all retail channels grew by double-digits prior to the pandemic and then exploded during the pandemic,” said MaryEllen Tefft, vice president of sales FDM at Boiron USA. “This was mostly attributed to stress, which is another category that grew exponentially.”

“Paired with the overarching societal shift toward embracing a more proactive approach to healthier living, it’s clear that consumers are more aware of how their systems are interconnected and in tune with how sleep impacts overall wellbeing.”
—Bryan Donaldson, EVP and chief sales officer, Pharmavite

The sleep category has traditionally been dominated by OTC brands, but now growth is being driven by dietary supplements with ingredients that include melatonin.

Bryan Donaldson, EVP and chief sales officer of Pharmavite, said consumers can expect more melatonin dosage and form offerings in 2024. There also will be melatonin-free sleep aid supplements and products that feature targeted blends to support sleep. For example, Nature Made Wellblends Sleep Longer features melatonin, L-theanine and GABA.

However, melatonin has been the subject of recent debate. Scientific research has found mixed results on melatonin’s efficacy, labeling accuracy and long-term safety, especially among children. Melatonin is a synthetic hormone that can cause some drug contraindications and unpleasant side effects, such as grogginess, headaches, dizziness and nausea.

The meteoric growth of mass market sleep products has slowed. Tefft said that could be attributed to an inability to sustain such high growth, an overabundance of melatonin-based SKUs and concerns about taking melatonin. In the natural channel, which includes non-melatonin natural sleep options, growth remains strong.

Donaldson said sleep products remain the number two category in the vitamins, minerals and supplements space behind immune health support.

Melatonin-free alternatives

Creagan said retailers should try to keep a mix of sleep products on the shelves to help drive sales. They also should pay attention to trusted brands, such as Dormin, a diphenhydramine-based sleep aid that has been on the shelves since the 1950s.

“Retailers should maintain a sleep aid product assortment that ensures consumer needs are being met, as this is a high-trial category,” Creagan said. “This means an assortment of OTC and natural sleep aid products with at least the most popular delivery systems, such as capsules, gummies, liquids, etc. Consumers will base their purchasing decisions on the dosage format, brand and value.”

Tefft said millennials tend to search for products with natural ingredients for sleep and are willing to spend more on safer options. As a whole, consumers are much more savvy—and sometimes wary—about sleep aids. Homeopathic medicines, like Bioron’s SleepCalm product line for adults and children, are melatonin-free, gluten-free, contain no artificial sweeteners or preservatives and have no known medication interactions.

Brooks George, general manager of North America at Rhinomed, said consumers are still discovering the wealth of available sleep products, and they are interested in drug-free remedies, too. Rhinomed offers nasal devices and will be releasing

SleepCalm Meltaway Tablets

Boiron SleepCalm offers a non-habit forming solution to relieve occasional sleeplessness, restless sleep and intermittent awakening for ages 12 and up. Powered by plant-based active ingredients, this homeopathic medicine calms a restless mind to help restore a healthy sleep pattern disrupted by nervousness, worries, exhaustion, jet lag or night shift work.

Suggested Retail Price: $13.21

CrossingWell Consumer Health

Nature Made Melatonin

Gummies provide 10 mg of melatonin per two-gummy serving to help users fall asleep faster and support restful sleep in a strawberry flavor. It’s a drugfree way to occasionally support your rest, the brand said.

Suggested Retail Price: $16.49

CrossingWell Consumer Health

Dormin was recently refreshed with new packaging creative to bring forward key messaging important to sleep-aid users. In a recent consumer research study among current sleep-aid users, 65% indicated they are more likely to purchase a brand with two mini capsules than a single dose, larger tablet product. The active ingredient in Dormin mini-capsules is diphenhydramine.

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Beyond Supplements

Sleep products are only part of the picture—and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to help people get a good night’s rest.

Brooks George, general manager for North America at Rhinomed, said consumers need to take a holistic look at their sleep habits and focus on sleep hygiene.

“They need to be mindful of the issues that are causing their lack of sleep or bad night’s sleep because not all of them can be solved by any one sleep product,” he said, adding that a supplement isn’t going to address a nasal valve collapse or deviated septum. “There are a lot of factors that go into sleep, just as there are a lot of factors that go into nutrition or exercise that need to be examined on a unique basis.”

Jim Creagan, president of CrossingWell Consumer Health, noted that sleep aids should only be used on a short-term basis. If sleeplessness lasts more than two weeks, consumers should contact their doctor, as insomnia may be a symptom of an underlying medical issue.

Here are some other areas consumers can focus on to help them get a good night’s rest:

• Maintain a consistent sleep schedule;

• Limit the use of phones and other blue-light emitting devices before bed;

• Use weighted blankets;

• Reduce light exposure by using black-out curtains and/or eye masks; and

• Listen to soothing nature sounds (e.g., crickets chirping, ocean waves) or colored noises (e.g., white, pink, brown) through noise machines.

a mouth tape later this year to make it easier for people to breath through their nose and prevent snoring. As the sleep market grows, retailers will have to find a better place to house all the products, he added.

“There needs to be a dedicated space,” George said. “Right now, some products are lumped in with common cold and allergenics and some are in the pain section. I think there needs to be a sleep and snoring section within one of those categories, or it needs to be its own category, like Amazon has.”

Still, George thinks drug stores are well suited to sell sleep products because if consumers are having trouble sleeping, they want to try and fix it immediately; they don’t want to wait for two-day shipping.


A lifestyle shift

Research has long told us that it’s

correlation to pain, too. Tefft said that those with pain have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and poor sleep can heighten pain sensitivity. ®

Growth Time for OTC Analgesics

An aging population, the rising prevalence of various diseases, cost-efficiency and increasing demand for topical analgesics are driving growth

When it comes to treating their aches and pains, many consumers rely on over-the-counter analgesics. That reliance is expected to escalate: A 2023 report from the Indian market research firm Mordor Intelligence predicts the global OTC analgesics market will register a compound annual growth rate of 3.8% between 2023 and 2028.

According to the report, a growing geriatric population, the rising prevalence of various diseases and the cost-efficiency of OTC analgesics are driving this growth.

Notable Gains for Topical Treatments

Increasing demand for topical analgesics is yet another growth driver in the global OTC analgesic space, the Mordor Intelligence report noted.

And that global trend appears to be playing out within the United States, too. Dason Williams, chief operating officer of Abilene, Texas-based Clavél Corp., noted that the topical pain category enjoyed 3.5% dollar sales growth across U.S. multi-outlet retail channels in 2023 (citing data from IRI), recovering from a slight downturn in 2022.

On the topical side, Clavél recently introduced the Blue Stop Max 3.4-oz. massaging applicator.

The mess-free product “provides soothing relief to body aches” and—like other Blue Stop Max products—features natural ingredients such as emu oil, coconut oil and aloe vera, the company said.

“Retail priced at $16.99, we are hitting the sweet spot for drug store shoppers,” Williams said.

“There are so many duplicate products out there with small differences such as size or ounces offered. I think that confuses the consumer as to which one they should choose at the shelf.”
–Dason Williams, chief operating officer, Clavél Corp.

Kenvue Inc., Skillman, N.J., also made a splash in the topical OTC analgesic space with the late 2023 launch of its Tylenol Precise pain-relieving creams. The company said the products have a rapid-absorbing formula and a uniquely designed rollerball for easy application.

Of course, affordability is an issue for some consumers when it comes to topical OTC analgesics. For these consumers, the Beyond BodiHeat disposable heat pad from Okamoto U.S.A. Inc. addresses that issue, noted Carol Carrozza, vice president of marketing for


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the Sandusky, Ohio-based company. Each odor-free pad retails for as little as 99 cents and is designed to relieve aches and pains in the back, shoulders, knees and more.

“Given the current state of inflationary pricing of consumer goods, overuse of pain-management products and the high cost of prescription solutions, BodiHeat is affordable for everyone,” Carrozza maintained.

A Shift to Self-Care, Personalization

David Tomasi, president of Whippany, N.J.-based Bayer Consumer Health, North America, pointed to two major consumer trends—the shift to self-care and the need for more personalization of health routines. “In the shift away from institutionalized health care, science-led self-care is a critical enabler of our mission of ‘Health for All, Hunger for None,’ and it guides us in all we do to deliver real value and results for consumers,” he said.

As such, Bayer works to understand consumers’ unique needs, Tomasi noted, and is “constantly


Blue Stop Max 3 oz.

The new Blue Stop Max 3.4-oz. massaging applicator is designed to provide soothing relief for body aches in a no-mess format.

CrossingWell Consumer Health added the legacy PediaCare OTC analgesic and cough/cold brand to its portfolio, relaunching it in the spring of 2023.


evaluating” how to meet those needs, such as its recently debuted Bayer Rapid Relief dissolvable powder packs. Featuring aspirin and caffeine, it “works at the site of pain” to relieve pain.

A recent analysis conducted for Bayer revealed that more than 80% of consumers already demand greater health-care personalization.

“Technology advancements have enabled a wave of new digital products such as diagnostics, apps and therapeutics to help them do so,” Tomasi noted.

A Matter of Trust

Trust is critical when it comes to modern consumers’ OTC analgesic choice—particularly when that analgesic is intended for children. CrossingWell Consumer Health, Cornwell, N.Y., understood the trust parents already had in the PediaCare OTC analgesic products when it added the legacy brand to its portfolio and relaunched it in the spring of 2023.

“In just the short time that PediaCare has been back on the shelf nationally, 2023 loyalty data from a major chain indicates that the three PediaCare pain/fever SKUs are the top items bringing in incremental dollars into the segment,” said Jim Creagan, president of CrossingWell.“

Consumer trust goes beyond specific products, of course. And retail drug stores could build trust within the OTC analgesic space by simplifying the shopping experience, Williams suggested. dsn

Bodi Heat Regular 12 tray (with pads) lief

Each Beyond BodiHeat odorfree pad retails for as little as 99 cents and is designed to relieve aches and pains in the back, shoulders, knees and more.


Out of the Comfort Zone

Retailers face major changes in their businesses, and they need to think differently about navigating them

Retail is in new territory.

Leaders are facing unprecedented choices about emerging technologies, dramatically shifting consumer needs and workforce transformation. Food and drug retailers need to create new roadmaps to understand these changes and identify how to stay ahead of them.

The challenges were explored at the recent FMI Midwinter Executive Conference, a gathering of senior food industry leaders that includes retailers and suppliers.

Here are some of my key takeaways for retailers based on speaker presentations at the conference.

Become Comfortable with Discomfort

Making decisions about artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies is creating anxiety. Companies need to think about this in new ways. Leslie Sarasin, FMI’s president and CEO, urged the food industry to embrace discomfort to drive success.

“We simply must get more comfortable with our discomfort in talking with each other about artificial intelligence—its implications, challenges, limits, dangers and opportunities,” Sarasin said.

A key strategy is to have more “salient” and “humancentric” conversations about guardrails and governance for AI capabilities, she added.

Pick the Most Important Spots

The growing focus on AI has led some industry executives to overthink what role the technology should play. Some leaders have been spending a lot of time analyzing all the possible use cases when they could drive more success by starting with their organization’s biggest needs and opportunities.

“I think 2023 was too much technology in search of a problem,” said Google Cloud’s Jose Luis-Gomes, managing director, retail and consumer. He said 2024 presents a reset opportunity for organizations by taking existing priorities and finding out how AI can make them go faster and drive more value.

Avoid Going it Alone

Retailers can’t be expected to have all the internal expertise needed to navigate in the face of rapid change. That’s why partnerships will be critical in the future. This is especially true for independent retailers.

“Partnerships are critical; we don’t have to go it alone,” said David Best, chief operating officer of Midwest independent grocery and pharmacy retailer Coborn’s Inc. “We want to learn and expose ourselves to new things.”

Salute Your Workforces

Technology is crucial to the future of retailers—and so are employees. Companies will need robust workforces to interact with technology tools, engage with customers and serve many other essential roles in this fast-changing environment. Organizations need to nurture and celebrate their workforces. It should start with an employee’s first day on the job, said Brian George, president, chairman and CEO of Alex Lee, a distributor that operates the Lowes Foods grocery chain. “We strive to make an employee’s first day into a day they’ll always remember,” he said. “These moments matter.”

Excel at Meeting Consumer Needs

Business success ultimately relies on meeting customer needs, and those are changing faster than anyone in the business can remember. Retailers that stay ahead of this challenge will differentiate themselves.

Kroger’s Stuart Aitken, chief merchant and marketing officer, pointed to the importance of addressing the growing consumer interest in nutrition in the face of major health conditions from diabetes to heart health. He also cited the challenge of food insecurity and the importance of efforts to reduce hunger and food waste. Kroger’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste program reflects its commitment to build a more resilient, equitable and sustainable food system.

David Orgel is an award-winning business journalist, industry industry expert expert and speaker who was the longtime chief editor and content leader of Supermarket News. He is currently the principal of David Orgel Consulting, delivering strategic content and counsel to the food, retail and CPG industries.

The upshot is that retailers need to be willing to step out of their comfort zones, which is essential when adopting new technologies but also critical for making progress on many other fronts as well. This requires identifying the most important goals and being prepared to consider nontraditional approaches to reaching them. dsn


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