Page 1

Dry Eye Relief From the #1 Preservative-Free Brand * *Data on file, AbbVie, Inc. REF-113774 © 2024 AbbVie. All rights reserved. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. US-RFS-230171 02/24 Fast-Acting, Lasting Relief Preservative-Free Soft Squeeze Multidose Bottle COMING SOON TO
2 New Choices For
INSIDE Serious Threats Big Opportunities Page 16 Supermarket pharmacy executives weigh in on the state of business Page 29 May 2024 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM
PL000471 Rev B Now available to order from Cencora, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. * Intuity Medical provides this information as a courtesy, it is subject to change and interpretation. The provider is ultimately responsible for determining the appropriate codes, coverage, and payment policies for individual patients. Intuity Medical does not guarantee third party coverage or payment for our products or reimburse providers for claims that are denied by third party payors. Intuity Medical is not responsible for denials or other actions due to reliance on the above guidance. Watch a clinical pharmacist show how easy Pogo is to train and learn. To learn more about Medicare Part B coverage and how to order, visit GoodtoPogo.com/HCP POGO Automatic Test Cartridges Each tube contains 50 tests (5 cartridges, 10 tests in each cartridge) POGO Automatic Blood Glucose Monitoring System UPC:
Cardinal Heatlh:
You’re good to Pogo. An easy-to-handle, all-in-one, discreet blood glucose monitor. Just Press Once and GO! POGO Automatic® is now covered by Medicare Part B*.
56176-0008-05 Cencora: 10259587
5738448 McKesson: 2383503
code: A4271 UPC: 856176008001 NRC: 56176-0008-00 Cencora: 10259500 Cardinal Heatlh: 5738430 McKesson: 2383487 New HCPCS code: E2104

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 May 2024 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM 05.24 DEPARTMENTS 8 EDITOR’S NOTE 10 INDUSTRY NEWS 12 PRODUCTS TO WATCH COLUMNS FEATURES 22 INSIDE BEAUTY | TWEENS, DUPES DOMINATE It’s shaping up to be a banner year for mass beauty 29 PHARMACY | STEPPING UP Innovative patient offerings and a focus on health equity are the hallmarks of successful supermarket pharmacies 34 HEALTH | DELIVERING COMFORT AND CLARITY Today’s advanced eye-care and ear-care solutions address the threats to two
consumers’ critical senses 74 CONSUMABLES | HOW SWEET IT IS High commodity prices have
to inflation
Vol. 46 No. 5 16 14 GUEST COLUMN by Margaret Scarlett, DMD 42 LAST WORD by David Orgel Lower profits, worker shortages and other headwinds persist, but retail pharmacies are seeking solutions.
in the
aisle, but consumers don’t seem to notice



CATALOG sales@TriggLabs.com © 2024 Trigg Laboratories, Inc.

Forging Ahead

Sure there are obstacles, but every problem has a solution, right?



If you look at the numbers, retail pharmacy faces strong headwinds and obstacles to overcome: an over-saturated retail footprint, labor shortages, inflation, front-end competition, PBM pressures. What’s more, retail pharmacies of all sizes are experiencing most of the same issues.

Bill Ladwig, SVP of pharmacy at Lewis Drug in Sioux Falls, S.D., told our reporter that the situation is unprecedented. “The big boys have always been strong while many regionals were wiped out,” he said. “But when you see problems across the whole front, it’s apparent there’s a critical concern.”

These challenges may seem insurmountable, but surely there are solutions.

Our cover story this month takes an issue-by-issue look at the challenges the industry faces and what observers think retailers could do to solve them. Our reporter, for example, found that retailers are exploring cost-plus pricing models, supporting PBMregulating legislation, seeking expanded scope of practice for pharmacists and other ideas.

The bottom line is that solutions to these challenges will not be simple and will require strategic thinking, similar to the one some retailers are considering now: shifting the front end.

About two decades ago, drugstores’ front ends were enlarged to offset declining pharmacy margins, but today, e-commerce has redefined convenience, making some categories less important and harder to compete with e-commerce giants. “The entire model was built around convenience and being there and everywhere,” said Matt Hamory, partner and managing director at AlixPartners.

“There was a period when this made sense. But customers don’t think of convenience that way anymore. I open my phone and with two taps can get something delivered.”

But there is a shift starting to happen. “You used to see everything from summer pool floaties to cosmetics,” Brian Nightengale, EVP and president of healthcare solutions at Inmar Intelligence, told us. “Retailers are shifting the front end from convenience to being a health and wellness destination, bringing in clinics and health and wellness products. We’ll see more of that.”

The industry will need to consider more ideas like this one if it has any chance of survival. dsn

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200 Chicago, IL 60631 773.992.4450 Fax 773.992.4455 www.drugstorenews.com


Senior Vice President & Publisher John Kenlon 516.650.2064 jkenlon@ensembleiq.com


Editor-in-Chief, Editorial Director Nigel F. Maynard nigelmaynard@ensembleiq.com

Managing Editor Julianne Mobilian jmobilian @ensembleiq.com

Senior Editor Sandra Levy slevy@ensembleiq.com

Online Editor Gisselle Gaitan ggaitan@ensembleiq.com


212.756.5155 atomas@ensembleiq.com

Regional Manager Steven Werner 312.961.7162 swerner@ensembleiq.com


Art Director Catalina Gutierrez cgutierrez@ensembleiq.com

Production Manager Jackie Batson jbatson@ensembleiq.com

Marketing Manager Kathryn Abrahamsen kabrahamsen@ensembleiq.com




BUSINESS Northeast Manager Alex Tomas
SERVICES List Rental
CORPORATE OFFICERS 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 EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD 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 8 May 2024 DRUGSTORENEWS.COM
Questions contact@drugstorenews.com
Join the growing list of drug and grocery retailers satisfying their customer’s demand for problem solving hair care products David Horwitz, Vital’s International Group 818-421-8739 | davidh@vitalsintl.com Problem solving hair care products Made with natural, organic ingredients

CVS Health expands pharmacy tuition assistance

CVS Health recently announced two new offerings for pharmacy students: an enhanced Pharm.D. tuition assistance program for eligible CVS Pharmacy interns and a new scholarship for students enrolled in pharmacy schools nationwide.

The new CVS Health/American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Community Pharmacy Health Equity Award will grant $20,000 to 21 outstanding student pharmacists who face financial barriers. The program is available to all eligible CVS Pharmacy interns.

“As leaders in community pharmacy, we are committed to investing in the future of pharmacy, particularly to support the next generation of students with financial assistance and hands-on experience necessary to further their careers,” said Prem Shah, executive vice president and chief pharmacy officer of CVS Health and president, pharmacy and consumer wellness. “We recognize the strong, enduring bond between pharmacists and the communities they serve.”

Walmart partners with Consumers Energy in Michigan

Consumers Energy is set to power 44 Walmart locations in Consumers Energy’s service territory in Michigan with clean energy.

Walmart is agreeing to match 90% of the energy they use across 44 Michigan locations with renewable energy from future projects that Consumers Energy will develop in Michigan.

In total, more than 30 businesses that Consumers Energy serves have committed to nearly 600 megawatts of emission-free renewable energy—equivalent to removing greenhouse gas emissions produced from more than 120,000 cars annually, based on Environmental Protection Agency data.

“Developing new renewable energy resources for our customers reflects Consumers Energy’s commitment to Michigan’s clean energy future and the collaboration it takes to bring them to fruition,” said Lauren Snyder, Consumers Energy’s vice president of customer experience. “By diversifying the energy portfolio, we are making a meaningful impact in adding critical new clean energy capacity to the grid while fostering economic growth and job creation in renewable energy.”

“Walmart’s energy transformation roadmap is designed to prioritize high-impact, high quality clean energy opportunities that help add new clean energy capacity to the grid and secure reliable and emissions-free power for our operations,” said Stephen Chriss, senior director for utility partnerships at Walmart. “We look forward to collaborating with Consumers Energy to add new clean energy capacity to Michigan’s power grid.”

Hy-Vee to acquire Strack & Van Til Food Market

Hy-Vee is in the process of acquiring the Strack & Van Til Food Market chain, also known as Indiana Grocery Group, which has store locations throughout Northwest Indiana.

The acquisition will add 22 stores to Hy-Vee’s more than 550 retail business units, which include grocery stores, drugstores, pharmacies, restaurants and convenience stores that focus on meal solutions for busy families.

“As our company continues to expand into Indiana and the Southeast region, Strack & Van Til’s customer-centric focus and company vision to ‘make lives easier’ aligns with Hy-Vee’s values and growth strategy,” said Jeremy Gosch, Hy-Vee’s CEO. “We look forward to welcoming Strack & Van Til’s approximately 2,800 employees into the Hy-Vee family in the weeks to come.”

Strack & Van Til will maintain its name and operate as a subsidiary under Hy-Vee, much like the parent company’s other subsidiaries, which include Midwest Heritage, Perishable Distributors of Iowa, D&D Foods, Amber Specialty Pharmacy, Vivid Clear Rx and Wall to Wall Wine and Spirits, among others. dsn


New and Noteworthy

HRG’s five notable products from April 2 4 1 3


After seeing a strong March, product introductions slowed for the month of April, continuing the up and down pattern for the last year or so.

For the month of April, suppliers introduced 170 new products, which is 102 less than the 272 they introduced in March. Waukesha, Wis.-based HRG reviewed 27 products in the health category, 124 items in the wellness sector and 19 items in the beauty aisle to see which ones stood out as Products to Watch.

Here are the ones to watch:

1. Lubriderm Advanced Therapy Body Wash Fragrance Free

Developed with dermatologists, Kenvue’s Lubriderm Advanced Therapy Body Wash is intended for itchy, dry skin. It’s formulated with pro-ceramide technology and contains vitamin E and pro-vitamin B5 to help moisturize and maintain skin’s natural moisture barrier. The fragrance free product comes in a 16-oz. bottle.

2. Opill Daily Oral Contraceptive

Perrigo Company said its Opill Norgestrel 0.075 mg Daily Oral Contraceptive is the first FDA-approved, full prescription strength birth control available over the counter. The company said Opill is estrogen-free, contains only one hormone—progestin—and is 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. It comes in a 28-ct. pack.

3. Summer’s Eve Ultimate Odor Protection Wipes

Summer’s Eve Ultimate Odor Protection Wipes by Medtech Products are formulated using a boric acid complex to control odor for up to 24 hours. Designed with a fresh and light scent, the wipes are free from dyes and parabens, making them safe for daily use, the company said. The products come in a pack with 12 wipes.

4. Natrol Happy Quick Balance Mints

Natrol said it developed Happy Quick Balance Mints for quick recovery when stressful situations arise. The company said the mints promote positive thinking and motivation by using Safr’Inside, a botanical and adaptogen extracted from saffron. Each mint is formulated to work in as little as 30 minutes and last up to four hours. The pack contains 30 mints.

5. Hyland’s Naturals Kids Organic All-in-One Cough Syrup + Immunity Support Combo Pack

Hyland’s Naturals Kids Organic All-in-One Cough Syrup + Immunity Support combo pack contains daytime and nighttime cough syrups for multi-symptom relief plus immune support for children ages one to 12 years. It is formulated with organic ingredients and is free of artificial flavors, sweeteners or colors. The nighttime formula also contains chamomile to promote sleep. It comes in two 4-oz. bottles. dsn


Preventing the Spread of Infections Inside Drugstores

Who is responsible for drugstore safety?

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ambulatory care services at U.S. drugstores have rapidly expanded. Pharmacists now provide a range of healthcare services, with clinical pharmacists stepping in to offer care services during surges in infectious diseases. Moreover, many drugstores have expanded their urgent care offerings, employing mid-level providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

As drugstores transition into healthcare facilities, concerns arise regarding patient and staff health, particularly with the presence of both sick and healthy individuals. Effective infection control measures are paramount to ensuring patient safety, yet there are other things to consider.

How safe are drug stores for both healthy and sick individuals? What protocols are in place to prevent the spread of respiratory infections within drug storessettings? As a result, there is a need to implement a systems-level approach to safeguard patients, customers and staff within drugstores.

Pharmacists are hailed as unsung heroes in upholding the integrity of the U.S. healthcare system. According to the American College of Pharmacists, they administered more than 300 million vaccines, conducted 42 million tests and delivered 350 million clinical interventions to 150 million individuals.

A recent surge in respiratory illnesses–including flu, COVID-19 variants like JN1, and respiratory syncytial virus–poses ongoing threats, including flu, COVID-19 variants like JN1 and respiratory syncytial virus. Pharmacists continue to play a vital role in testing, vaccinations and clinical interventions. Extending environmental and infection control guidelines to drugstores is imperative.

Solution: Systems-Level Approaches

Patients may be at risk of illness when visiting drugstores, particularly if these environments lack adequate safety measures. So, how can transmission be prevented in drugstores?

See Diagram: Transmission of aerosols and large droplets in indoor air.

• Avoiding direct contact: Wearing masks and eye protection can mitigate the risk of direct contact transmission. Coughs and sneezes pose particular challenges, as they can propel droplets and aerosols over long distances.

• Avoiding indirect contact: Indirect contact with infectious agents via dispersed organisms in room air presents another concern. Organisms may remain suspended for hours, posing a risk of transmission to individuals. Proper indoor air quality management is crucial.

• Ensuring indoor air quality: Safe IAQ in drugstores is vital, requiring proper filtration and high-quality ventilation. The CDC’s 2024 draft guidance introduces the concept of “Extended Air Precautions” for healthcare facilities serving patients with respiratory illnesses. Passive

is chief medical consultant, infectious diseases and infection control specialist at CASPR.

engineering solutions, like CASPR Technologies, effectively reduce pathogens in the air and on surfaces. Additionally, ASHRAE’s June 2023 standard acknowledges aerosol transmission risks.

• Avoiding high-touch contact: Surface contamination poses a significant risk of illness transmission in drugstores.

Drugstores are evolving into healthcare destinations, which necessitates a safer environment for interactions among retail customers, pharmacists and individuals in need of healthcare services. Implementing an engineering control solution is essential for continuous reduction of pathogens in the air and on surfaces. While CVS drugstores have installed CASPR in their Minutes Clinics, further measures are needed to protect the retail space, pharmacy area and pharmacists.

Margaret Scarlett, DMD, is a chief medical consultant, infectious diseases & infection control specialist at CASPR. dsn

Margaret Scarlett Transmission of aerosols and large droplets in indoor air.
To see the power of people and dogs together, just look to Dog Chow ® Service Dog Salute
The causal initiative connects to Purina’s past, as well as its mission today.

Pe t s and people are better to ge ther.

Tha t tru th i s our nor th s t ar here a t Pur i na. And tha t s t ar has prov i ded a s i mple bu t br ig ht and clear g u i de as we ’ve embraced and champ i oned causes tha t are true to our mi ss i on.

Tha t i ncludes the D o g Chow Serv i ce D o g Salu te Pro g ram – w here these remar k able do g s are more than pe t s , bu t heroes themselves.

Suppor tin g U.S. troops isn ’t new to D o g Chow. In f ac t, it goes bac k to Dog Chow’s creation, as a nod to the “chow lines” that sus t ained Amer ican serv ice members during World War I. Bu t w ha t w as once a par t o f our her it a ge became par t o f our mi ss i on i n 2018. The power o f ani mals i s rarely more apparent than w hen you see the pro f ound i mpac t o f a serv i ce do g on a person i n need. And there are approximately 3.6 million military ve terans i n need suffer i n g f rom pos t- trauma ti c s tress d i sorder (PTS D) tha t may benefi t f rom the l if esav i n g i mpac t s o f a serv i ce do g. Yes , l if esav i n g. PTS D serv i ce do g s have demons tra ted the ab i l it y to reduce the sever it y o f PTS D symp toms and su i c i dal behav i ors.

Tha t i s w hy it i s par ti cularly hear tbreaki n g to learn tha t jus t 1% o f those i n need w ho see k a serv i ce do g rece i ve one each year. The cos t and ti me it t a kes to trai n each serv i ce do g – approxi ma tely two years and $20, 000-$50, 000 – has pu t many o f them ou t o f reach to ve terans i n need.

We w ant to chan ge tha t . D o g Chow has dona ted more than $1.2 mi ll i on to serv i ce do g or g aniza ti ons si nce the i ncep ti on o f Serv i ce D o g Salu te. These dollars suppor t the very spec i al ized trai ni n g requ i red f or PTS D serv i ce do g s.

From reco g nizi n g and per f ormi n g up to 20 t as k s tha t ran ge f rom reduc i n g pani c attac k s to aler ti n g ve terans o f po ten ti al tr iggers , and so much more, these serv i ce do g s have very i mpor t ant d i fferences f rom emo ti onal suppor t, therapy or compani on animals.

PTS D serv i ce do g s are remar k able and rare. And our s i ncere hope i s to i ncrease aw areness o f the need w hi le also celebra ti n g the tremendous i mpac t these serv i ce do g s and the i r ve terans ma ke. As a re t ai ler, you can help us do tha t . Serv i ce D o g Salu te i s hig hl ig hted on every ba g o f D o g Chow Comple te tha t arr i ves to re t ai l s tores , but you can also contact your Purina sales rep to learn more about special Serv i ce D o g Salu te i n-s tore sig na ge, soc i al and d igit al asse t s , additi onal merchand i se and more to dr i ve atten ti on f or the pro g ram.

And at Pur i na, we w ant to e xtend aw areness beyond the shelves. Even i nto the thea ter! Thi s year, D o g Chow

i s i ntroduc i n g an all-new Serv i ce D o g Salu te ca te gory i n the New Yor k D o g F i lm Fes ti val w hi ch i nv ites filmma kers to e x plore the uni que w ays PTS D serv i ce do g s trans f orm the l i ves o f the mi l it ary ve terans they serve. I f you or someone you k now i s a v i sual s tory teller, v i s it www. D o g Chow.com/ filmf es ti val to learn more. And if you are si mply jus t a f an, s t ay t uned to tha t same webs ite thi s f all to find ou t how you can see and share the wi nni n g film.

There are mul ti ple w ays to ge t i nvolved. Our hope i s tha t you find a t leas t one. Because it i s with your suppor t tha t we can advance our mi ss i on and br i n g more ve terans and PTS D serv i ce do g s to ge ther.

trademarks are owned by Société des Produits Nestlé S.A.

Lower profits and worker shortages persist, but retail pharmacies are seeking lucrative solutions



Retail pharmacies are in a precarious position and are struggling to generate profits: they are understaffed, losing money on prescriptions and, in the case of big drug chains, have an overall store model that appears to be in trouble. Consequently, they are cutting pharmacy hours and closing stores.


At Wendy’s, if the price of beef goes up, they can raise prices. But we don’t set prices or reimbursements. You can negotiate contracts to a point, but most big PBMs say ‘take it or leave it.’”

The PBM scourge

Most problems stem from PBMs’ declining prescription reimbursements, a situation that continually worsens. Three PBMs (CVS/Caremark, OptumRx and Express Scripts) control 85% of the market, making contracts relatively unnegotiable.

“The biggest issue facing pharmacy is reimbursement,” said Drew Masey, director of pharmacy operations for Fruth Pharmacy, Point Pleasant, W.V. “Everything else is fluff. Patients and plans are charged rates that aren’t in line with drugs’ cost. PBMs make money charging the state [or insurance plan, etc.] extra. Pharmacies can receive negative reimbursements. It looks like we’re making money but we’re losing.”

Due to these financial issues, Fruth closed four stores and will shutter two more. “Pharmacies are working with less and the window to operate keeps shrinking,” added Masey. “There’s money out there but it’s being monitored inappropriately.”

In the past, problems were the bane of independent pharmacies, many of which have disappeared. But poor PBM reimbursements and other financial challenges are now taking their toll on larger chains, particularly drugstores. Rite Aid is in bankruptcy and CVS is closing 900 stores, representing about 10% of the chain. And last summer, Walgreens announced it would shutter 150 U.S. locations. Front ends also face challenges, with online shopping redefining convenience.

“The economic model is broken,” said Rodey Wing, partner in health and retail practices, Kearney. “That’s the biggest challenge. They’re changing hours and closing stores. There’s labor problems and the front end is struggling. There’s competition from mail order and online. They’re failing due to prevailing trends in reimbursement. How do you make retail pharmacy relevant?”

Bill Ladwig, SVP pharmacy, Lewis Drug in Sioux Falls, S.D., believes the situation is unprecedented. “The big boys have always been strong while many regionals were wiped out,” he said. “But when you see problems across the whole front, it’s apparent there’s a critical concern.”

In an effort to remedy problems, retailers are exploring cost-plus pricing models and supporting PBM-regulating legislation. Industry experts also hope more states will expand pharmacists’ scope of practice, letting pharmacies add additional health services to offset declining prescription reimbursements.

Masey said pharmacy is one of the very few industries with no say in pricing. “At Wendy’s, if the price of beef goes up, they can raise prices,” he added. “But we don’t set prices or reimbursements. You can negotiate contracts to a point, but most big PBMs say ‘take it or leave it.’’’

Recently, West Virginia passed a law that makes PBM practices more transparent. And at the federal level, the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Act (S.127), introduced in January 2023, would prohibit PBMs from charging plans different amounts than they reimburse pharmacies.

Some retailers have reacted by launching their own PBMs, using a transparent model. West Des Moines, Iowa-based grocery chain Hy-Vee introduced Vivid Clear Rx in 2020. This “reimagined” subsidiary guarantees no spread pricing and uses a 100% pass through model that provides all rebates secured by Vivid Clear to the client, said Tina Potthoff, SVP communications. “It was designed with transparency in mind.” Hy-Vee also works closely with state and federal legislators on PBM reform.

Some big drug chains are implementing cost plus models, a concept initiated by Mark Cuban of pharmacy distribution company Cost Plus Drugs. Cost Plus eliminates the PBM “middleman.” Wing said cost plus considers how much the pharmacy paid for a drug along with dispensing fees for pharmacy services and other associated costs. This model better aligns costs with revenue, better positioning incentives across the value chain and potentially enabling more transparent pricing.

But creating total transparency requires a 360 degree change in business practices. “It’s a pretty significant culture shift,” added Wing.

Expanding scope of practice

Another potential revenue source would involve pharmacists being reimbursed by insurance companies and other payers in the same manner as other medical providers for non-prescription dispensing services. This could include medication and diabetes management, treating and prescribing for common illnesses and operating in-store clinics.

-Drew Masey, director of pharmacy operations, Fruth Pharmacy

This is already happening in some states. But legislators have not expanded scope of practice or passed laws requiring insurance reimbursement nationwide. “Pharmacists continue to give away services that other health care professionals charge for,” said Ilisa Bernstein, Pharm.D., J.D., FAPhA and SVP of practice, policy and partnerships, American Pharmacists Association. “Laws and policies must change so pharmacists are paid equally.”

A proposed bill, the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacies, would enable Medicare beneficiaries to be covered for testing, treatment and immunizing for certain conditions “as they were during the pandemic,” said Bernstein. Expanding scope of practice could also benefit some rural and urban communities where there are few primary care providers, she added.

Some retailers have expanded services by operating clinics. CVS acquired Minute Clinic in 2006. Staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants, many of the 1,100 locations are inside CVS’ stores. Walgreens has 220 Village Medical clinics co-located in stores. Forty percent of these 5,000 square foot operations are in areas underserved by primary care. Walgreens also partnered with Hartford HealthCare to create six in-store clinics in Connecticut.

Gambelli Funds portfolio manager Jeff Jonas said CVS’ Minute Clinics “break even” on profits. But they drive pharmacy traffic and OTC sales. “So, they’re profitable when you include that,” he added.

Lewis Drug partners with Sanford Health System to operate 40,000 square foot clinics next to some of its 35,000-squarefoot stores. Staffed by doctors, full-service clinics emphasize convenience and collaboration. “It drives store traffic,” said Ladwig. “It improves communication between physicians, nurses and our staff. The collaborative part is the future.” The concept is being expanded.

Grocery stores have a big advantage in layering on additional services because the pharmacy can be linked to food. Through its Food as Medicine program, Hy-Vee’s dieticians and pharmacists work together to help people manage conditions like heart disease

and diabetes through nutritional changes. Recently, Hy-Vee teamed up with Soda Health to launch a Smart Benefits program that lets Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance members redeem personalized benefits for healthy food, nutritional support, medications and everyday health care items, said Potthoff. In 2021, Hy-Vee introduced virtual dietician services. The retailer also established RedBox Rx, a low-cost telehealth provider. And it operates 28 mobile health vehicles that serve rural communities with vaccinations and health screenings.

Labor and drug shortages

There is a pharmacist shortage, with fewer pharmacy graduates and pharmacists choosing retail environments. This impedes efficiency. “Due to pharmacies’ economic situation, they’re understaffed, with pharmacy teams working hard with no breaks,” said Bernstein. “There’s a shortage of pharmacists wanting to work under current conditions. And employers need full staff to provide safe patient care.”

You used to see everything from summer pool floaties to cosmetics. Retailers are shifting front end from convenience to being a health and wellness destination, bringing in clinics and health and wellness products. We’ll see more of that.”

- Brian Nightengale, executive VP and president, healthcare solutions, Inmar Intelligence

Product Knowledge

Advocate for You Responsiveness

Likeable and Trusting

Our Goal? The Best Customer Service. Period. ascendlaboratories.com
Professional Helpful Honest
and Ethical

Front ending

About two decades ago, drugstores’ front ends were enlarged to offset declining pharmacy margins with convenience items like milk, cold beverages, grocery and household staples. Around the same time, drugstores were being erected on almost every corner. But today, e-commerce has redefined convenience, making some categories less important.

“The entire model was built around convenience and being there and everywhere,” said Matt Hamory, partner and managing director, AlixPartners. “There was a period when this made sense. But customers don’t think of convenience that way anymore. I open my phone and with two taps can get something delivered.”

Grocery is not the only troubled category. Photo processing and greeting card sections have shrunk or disappeared from many stores. In other categories, drug chains are having trouble being price competitive with mass retailers. Despite challenges, front ends remain relatively the same. “It doesn’t feel very different than it did 10, 15 years ago,” added Hamory. “Some products are slow moving. They could make assortments more relative to customers.”

Nightengale believes front end will shrink as healthcare services and scope of practice expand. “You used to see everything from summer pool floaties to cosmetics,” he said. “Retailers are shifting front end from convenience to being a health and wellness destination, bringing in clinics and health and wellness products. We’ll see more of that.”

Matt Hamory

Brian Nightengale, executive VP and president, healthcare solutions, Inmar Intelligence, believes the shortage will end as more pharmacists fill clinical roles. “As we transform retail pharmacies into health and wellness destinations, you’ll see more interest. We’re already seeing it in places where pharmacists can practice. They’re great places to work.”

Jonas predicts that closing of 1,000-plus drug stores will free staff to work elsewhere. “Between Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS, they’re freeing up pharmacists and technicians for remaining stores to pick up,” he said.

Pharmacies also face generic drug shortages. Ladwig cited shortages of ADHD medications. And last winter, he could not find amoxicillin. “Drug manufacturers have ‘commoditized’ generics,” he said.

Christine Walton, VP of prescription marketing at generic drug supplier Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, said shortages occur when generic drug manufacturers lower prices to rock bottom levels to be competitive. Initially, this benefits retailers and patients. But when prices plummet below cost, suppliers exit categories and create shortages. Pharmacies must scramble to find alternate suppliers or substitute a different drug (if possible).

“There’s potential for long-term supply issues as prices continue eroding,” said Walton. “Costs are increasing on freight, labor and active ingredients. As prices fall and costs increase, prices are no longer sustainable for manufacturers and they’re forced to discontinue the drug. This isn’t a new development. It’s continued year after year.”

Mail order and Amazon

Mail order drugs are another threat. The Commonwealth Fund said mail order represents 37%of retail prescription drug sales; drug chains command 40% while supermarkets account for 9%.

Erin Crumley, director of strategic accounts for SymphonyAI’s retail pharmacy team, believes physical pharmacies can differentiate from mail order by integrating consumers’ front end shopping data and prescription records through loyalty cards. Pharmacy teams can then counsel customers on how certain foods, supplements and other non-prescription items can improve health. They can also personalize offers for these type items “all with HIPAA and other privacy and compliance guidelines,” she added.

Amazon’s new same day, AI-driven pharmacy delivery model could also present challenges. While currently limited to several big cities, Amazon’s success in other e-commerce endeavors is hard to ignore.

“Amazon is probably leaps and bounds ahead of everyone and will probably revolutionize the industry, particularly home delivery,” said Tom Bender, founding partner, Pharmacy Management Consultants LLC. He believes AI will impact other areas. “Pharmacy schools will probably have to adapt the curriculum. In pharmacies, it could affect automation, filling robotics and operational systems. It will free up pharmacists to perform other tasks.”

Looking ahead, it is hard to predict what will happen in retail pharmacy. Some experts predict a shakeout that will dramatically change the landscape. Others see pharmacies simply enlarging and expanding their focus. Whatever happens, change is inevitable. “It’s all coming to a head,” said Ladwig. dsn

Brian Nightengale



Join us for the sixth annual Top Women Awards as we celebrate the exceptional women who are shaping and changing this industry.

The DSN Top Women in Health, Wellness & Beauty program applauds and recognizes women for their exceptional contributions to both their companies and communities. Save the date and celebrate these extraordinary women who are influencing and transforming the health, wellness, and beauty industry.


ITweens, Dupes Dominate

It’s shaping up to be a banner year for mass beauty

t is mass beauty’s time to shine. For the past three years, prestige sales gains eclipsed mass increases—although both channels produced glowy results.

Now, mass is regaining dominance, encouraged by younger customers snapping up skincare products, the upswing in social content creators touting dupes and a slew of innovations. An unsteady economy also signals a pivot to mass brands for some shoppers.

Skincare remains one of the strongest performers with sales rising 13.1% year-over-year, according to NielsenIQ. Younger shoppers drive a significant portion of those gains. In 2023, 46% of growth in the facial skincare category was produced by households with tweens or teens, according to NIQ.

With the Gen Alphas population expected to reach 2.5 billion the year, the cohort presents significant opportunities for retailers. The challenge for drugstores will be to court sales away from prestige doors.

The “Sephora kids” effect has a huge impact on skincare sales. The term refers to younger shoppers flocking to the aisles at Sephora and Ulta Beauty for high-end brands like Drunk Elephant. There is a spillover into the mass market for skincare— especially as parents sway their offspring to lower price points.

Dermatologists are weighing in on the kids’ skincare craze. “This trend where tweens are buying and using ‘advanced skincare’ is very concerning,” said Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd. “Skincare products with ingredients like retinol and alpha hydroxy acids are not appropriate for young skin and can cause significant irritation in this age group.”


In 2023

of growth in the facial skin care category was produced by households with tweens or teens according to NIQ

“If a child shows interest in skin care, it’s an opportunity for parents to engage in a conversation about basic skincare,” Wooley-Lloyd continued. “Most tweens only require a gentle cleanser, a light moisturizer and sunscreen. It’s crucial for children to understand that healthy skin care for their age does not involve anti-aging products.”

A poll of derms list CeraVe, Bubble, Cetaphil and TBH as mass brands with products suitable for younger shoppers.

“We don’t formulate with any ingredients considered controversial,” said Shai Eisenman, founder and chief executive officer of the fast-growing Bubble brand. “We choose ingredients that are the absolute safest. We simplified the routine—there are only three steps—cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen. We developed it like a prestige brand sold at mass prices.”

The brand has other items it does not advise for younger users, such as acne treatments, which Eisenman does not recommend for people under 14. “We say it bluntly on our TikTok and Instagram,” Eisenman added.

skincare. CeraVe supplements dermatologist recommendations with more accessible skincare education for all ages to encourage healthy habits.”

TBH is a brand developed for young skin. Its Kids’ Face Moisturizer, launched late in 2023, has already become the company’s fastest seller to date, according to brand founder and CEO Risa Barash.

The moisturizer is formulated for younger skin to keep it hydrated while maintaining the natural protective barrier. It contains age-appropriate levels of vitamin C, peptides and hyaluronic acid to maintain fresh glowing faces while still being gentle, said Barash, who added that TBH sales are up 40% and on the rise.

“We also have taken consumer feedback—specifically from tweens themselves—and we are currently redesigning our packaging to align with their purchasing behaviors,” Barash said. “We expect to roll this out over the second half of 2024 which we also expect to see increases.”

TBH Kids has been vocal about the “Sephora kids” and how they are using the wrong products with harsh ingredients they don’t need.

“Our products are age-appropriate for tweens 9-15,” Barash told DSN. “While mass marketers can certainly use this as a teachable moment by stocking age-appropriate products, promoting brands to the correct demographics with appropriate messaging, and utilizing in-store education, it is equally important for parents to educate themselves and their kids about products and ingredients.”

“As a brand, we aim to help educate parents and tweens through our social media, website blog, and other channels as 46%

Retailers and brands see a chance to teach consumers about good skin health. Bubble, for example, produced a video for CVS associates and provided educational documents for Walmart.

Retailers singled out CeraVe as a brand younger shoppers request—and parents approve.

“We are excited to see that younger generations are interested in skincare and prioritize their skin health. This is a big opportunity for brands to educate parents and younger consumers about safe skincare and how to practice dermatologist-recommended habits,” said Jasteena Gill, vice president of marketing at CeraVe. “As a brand developed with dermatologists, CeraVe always encourages consulting a dermatologist when making skincare decisions to better understand what products are most suitable for skin, especially for parents of children interested in

TBH Skincare

well,” Barash added. “TBH Kids volume is up over 40% and we expect the numbers to continue to grow.”

Vera Oh, co-founder of VOESH, said her brand is geared toward those 13 and up. “Considering the increasing awareness of environmental factors affecting younger skin, it’s not uncommon for even younger kids to face skincare concerns. Parents play a crucial role as the skincare detectives, discerning between what to avoid and what’s beneficial,” she said.

Opting for cleaner ingredients is crucial. “While we want kids to have fun with skincare, parents should also be savvy about what goes into those products, ensuring they’re safe and effective,” Oh added.

Mass Market Alternatives Sprout

There is little shame in buying good-value beauty products thanks to affirmation from social media content providers. In fact, dupes are in and that’s a windfall for mass retailers. NIQ reports that 46% of consumers state they will purchase less expensive products to save money. The dupes, said Anna Mayo, NIQ’s vice president for beauty vertical, grow the entire category rather than shift sales. “Sales of originals benefit at the same time as copycats.”

E.l.f., L.A. Girl and Milani are brands gaining fans in makeup. Garnier and L’Oréal are seen as “just as good” as salon haircare. Walmart’s exclusive Dossier is a substitute for Baccarat Rouge 540, which starts at $200 versus Dossier’s version at $49.

Milani is a social media darling. Its new Cheek Kiss Cream Bronzer is “off to an amazing start,” said Jeremy Lowenstein, chief marketing officer for the brand. He said influencers compare it to pricier brands like Makeup by Mario and Patrick Ta. Influencer Kelly Strack recently posted affordable finds at Walmart and frequently shows off drugstore versions of prestige products, such as Physicians Formula’s Butter Glow Bronzing Serum ($14) versus Drunk Elephant’s D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops ($38).

Onyx Professional bath and body products

A Pipeline of New Brands uncorked a bevy of new items to take advantage of interest in mass-market beauty. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson became the latest celebrity to muscle into the market with his personal care brand, Papatui, which rolled out to 1,900 Target stores.

Sports stars are scoring in beauty, and Serena Williams hopes to serve the needs of people with darker skin with her brand, Wyn, which launched in Ulta Beauty.

CeraVe is expanding its facial moisturizer portfolio. “We continue to innovate our products to offer consumers more options to customize their skin care routines to what works best for their skin, all while keeping our formulas rooted in our expertise— restoration of the skin barrier with three essential ceramides,” said Gill “We are growing our facial moisturizer lineup to give consumers even more options to incorporate daily moisturization into a healthy skincare routine.”

Onyx Professional is gearing up for the second half of the year. “I’m so excited about

CeraVe facial moisturizing lotion


EnsembleIQ is the premier resource of actionable insights and connections powering business growth throughout the path to purchase. We help retail, technology, consumer goods, healthcare and hospitality professionals make informed decisions and gain a competitive advantage.

EnsembleIQ delivers the most trusted business intelligence from leading industry experts, creative marketing solutions and impactful event experiences that connect best-in-class suppliers and service providers with our vibrant business-building communities.



the new Onyx Professional bath and body care collection,” said Sarah Conley, Onyx’s social media strategist. “Personally, I love the Hydrating & Foaming Body Wash Shake in Rose Petals—not only does it contain niacinamide, an ingredient that does wonders for my skin, but it’s a multipurpose product— you can also use it to shave.”

Raw Sugar, sold in Target, CVS and Walmart, is going deeper in haircare and body care. The Deep Cleanse Clarifying Shampoo, New Not So Dry Shampoo, Rosemary Vinegar Hair Rinse and Simply Straight are new in its arsenal. The company added new scents in its lotions Santal+Caffeine, Shea + Rice Flower, Hibiscus + Island Fruit and Clementine+Fig, an Eco Body Bar and a Daily Micro Scrub Polish. VOESH, which recently expanded into Walmart, is introducing a Vegan Body Crème Trio, Tone’d Body Firming Roller Crème and Smooth’d Body Refining Roller Crème.

First, there was the “skinification” of hair and now first aid. Kenvue is introducing Band-Aid Brand Pro Heal Adhesive Bandages with Hydrocolloid Gel Pads for advanced healing.

The hydrocolloid gel pads not only aid in faster healing but also play a crucial role in preventing the appearance of scars, the company said. By balancing hydration, damaged skin is nurtured back to health.

Bright Future

With solid tailwinds, mass market industry leaders are bullish on the future.

“I’m no economist, but I do know that whether the economy is up or down, self-care is a necessity and should be accessible,” said Conley at Onyx. “Taking the time to pour back into yourself is essential, especially when times are tough.”

Oh at Voesh said the second half will have challenges, but she is still optimistic. “We’re witnessing signs of economic recovery, particularly in our traditional sales channels, which is encouraging. However, we remain wary of supply chain disruptions and inflationary pressures,” she said. “Sustainability and social responsibility continue to influence consumer behavior and corporate strategies. Businesses are increasingly prioritizing environmental stewardship and ethical practices. Moving forward, we’re committed to remaining adaptable to effectively navigate this evolving landscape.” dsn

Sales risings



Source: NielsenIQ

Raw Sugar shampoo

Stepping Up

Innovative patient offerings and a focus on health equity are the hallmarks of successful supermarket pharmacies

In 2022, we also launched pilot programs to help with early access to healthcare professionals, access to healthy food and low-cost selfmanagement tools.”

– Kevin Host, senior vice president, pharmacy at Walmart

Supermarket pharmacies, like the larger pharmacy chains, reacted quickly when the pandemic hit, serving as the neighborhood lifeline, providing COVID testing and vaccines as well as curbside pickup and delivery. In the post pandemic environment they continue to enhance their clinical services, and consumers are satisfied.

According to J.D. Power’s 2023 U.S. Pharmacy Study, supermarket in-store pharmacies scored an average of 704 points based on a 1,000-point scale. The study measures customer satisfaction with brick and mortar and mail order pharmacies.

Christopher Lis, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power, said supermarket pharmacy customers are most likely to say they choose their pharmacy because of the convenience of the location (81%), consistent service (52%), great personnel (42%) and discount drug cards (12%). They also are the least likely of the segments to say they will “definitely switch” pharmacies in the next 12 months (only 3%).

DSN asked several supermarket pharmacy executives to weigh in on the state of their business. Edited for length, the responses shed light on their focusses and priorities for the communities they serve.

Question 1:

Describe your supermarket’s pharmacy offerings and new patient facing services.

Leigh Shirley, director of pharmacy at Giant Co.: Giant has 133 pharmacies across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Giant Company pharmacy teams are committed to creating healthier communities. Our pharmacists are not only filling prescriptions but also providing counseling, medication therapy management services, vaccines and more to support our customers. All Giant/Martin’s pharmacies offer services like vaccines, offsite immunization clinics, prescription delivery, medication synchronization, automatic refill, text notifications, pharmacy app and pharmacy mobile pay options. In addition, some locations are specially trained to complete travel consultations for our customers traveling abroad. Our newest clinical program that we offer to our customers is point of care testing services for flu and strep. Our customers can be tested for flu and strep right in our pharmacies and have quick results.


Additionally, we work with Giant’s team of registered dietitians, who provide free virtual nutrition classes presented live throughout the week on various nutrition topics. Class topics change depending on the season and month. One of my favorite sessions offered is their Meal Solutions Monday series, where they showcase nutrient-dense and value-packed easy meals.

Dr. Marc Watkins, chief medical officer at Kroger Health: Kroger has more than 2,250 pharmacies in 35 states.

Kroger Health pharmacies offer a variety of services, including prescription management, vaccines and health screenings provided by specially trained pharmacists and carefully designed to meet our patients’ needs. We accept a variety of prescription discount cards, as well as most manufacturer copay cards, to help customers save money on your medications. Additionally, our Kroger Specialty Pharmacy is a nationwide clinical pharmacy servicing patients with chronic illnesses requiring complex care in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Our pharmacies accept most insurance plans and can process payments in store or online, and we offer preferred pharmacy pricing on most Medicare Part D plans.

Jackie Morse, group vice president of pharmacy and health at Meijer: Meijer Pharmacies can be found in every Meijer supercenter and grocery format, which equates to 263 pharmacies in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois and Wisconsin. In the last five years, Meijer Pharmacy offerings have grown significantly, serving an essential role in providing access to health services for customers. In 2019, Meijer Pharmacy commenced its drug takeback program where customers can safely dispose of their unused, unwanted or expired medications. In 2023, nearly 90,000 pounds or 45 tons of unused/unwanted medications from proper disposal were returned.

In 2022, Meijer launched ScripTalk, an assistive technology that reads prescription labels to those visually impaired, allowing them to take control of their own medications. In 2023, the retailer announced its latest partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan through a co-branded Medicare Advantage plan, allowing seniors to save

even more on their health and wellness expenses. To kick off 2024, Meijer also announced the launch of its personalized virtual nutrition coaching service in Michigan, inviting individuals to connect one-onone with a Meijer registered dietitian to discuss nutrition strategies specific to their health needs.

Kevin Host, senior vice president, pharmacy, at Walmart: Walmart operates nearly 4,600 pharmacies nationwide and in Puerto Rico. We operate pharmacies in all states except North Dakota.

Our pharmacies provide our customers with affordable prescriptions (including $4 generics), vaccines (COVID-19, flu, shingles, RSV, pneumonia and more), health screenings (blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and more) and affordable pricing on over-the-counter supplies needed to stock a medicine cabinet. Plus, our pharmacies are open seven days a week, with convenient options for customers to get the health resources they need, including drivethru and the ability to refill prescriptions via text.

In August 2023, Walmart launched Testing and Treatment, which is a program that allows customers to be tested for common respiratory illnesses such as the flu, strep and COVID-19, then treated, all in one place. Testing and Treatment is currently available in the following states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, South Dakota, New Mexico as of April 15, Tennessee and Washington. Further, Walmart began specialty pharmacy operations in 2003 and has recently rolled out Specialty Pharmacies of the Community (SPOCs) within select Walmart pharmacies nationwide, focusing on core areas, including viral infections and inflammatory conditions.

We currently have over 87 HIV-focused SPOCs open in 12 states (Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Georgia and Connecticut).

We currently have six autoimmune-focused SPOCs open in four states (Louisiana, New York, Texas and Rhode Island).

On World AIDS Day last year, we launched an HIV screening pilot at two Walmart pharmacies in Virginia, which offers HIV screenings and results during the pilot phase. We’re currently looking at expanding that.

Angie Nelson, senior vice president, pharmacy at Hy-Vee: HyVee operates more than 275 retail pharmacies across its eightstate region, which includes Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

At Hy-Vee, we’ve invested in a variety of pharmacy services designed to bring more value and support to our patients.


Improve your pharmacy’s financial health

Understanding the full picture of your financial health allows you to plan, manage and maximize your cash flow. Operational efficiencies are also a key element to the financial performance of your pharmacy and directly correlate to improved profit margins. Wherever you are in your financial health journey, Cardinal Health is centered on support to help you navigate the ever-changing marketplace with a broad portfolio of services and deep expertise.

Cardinal Health™ Inventory Manager (CIM)

Reimbursement Consulting Services (RCS)

RCS analyzes your dispensing data, finding opportunities to maximize reimbursement, mitigate audit risk and act on funded clinical opportunities. An expert personal consultant will work to prioritize opportunities, helping you save time and improve cash flow. Learn how the RCSintegrated platform and our expert advisors help you harness the power of your pharmacy data.

Cardinal Health™ Reconciliation

Reconciling your third-party claims is an insurance policy for your pharmacy as reimbursement errors can be commonplace. Cardinal Health™ Reconciliation simplifies third-party reconciliation by tracking pharmacy and medical claims in one place, so you know where your money is throughout the reimbursement process. Learn how our expert analysts proactively identify and reconcile aging claims and take manual reconciliation processes off your hands.

Pharmacy Services Administration Organization (PSAO) Services

PSAO Services simplifies your pharmacy administration and provides you with the right access to the right networks at the right time. Decisions are made in the best interest of member pharmacies and approved by independent pharmacists. Learn how you can harness the power of one of the largest networks of independent pharmacies with award-winning clinical performance.

CIM is a web-based solution providing greater control of your pharmacy’s biggest strain on cash flow: inventory. With CIM, pharmacies see an average of 20+ inventory turns per year, reduce excess inventory and decrease staff time spent on daily ordering tasks.* Inventory can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn how CIM can help you turn inventory back into cash for your business. To take control of your pharmacy’s financial health, visit cardinalhealth.com/FinancialHealth

© 2024 Cardinal Health. All Rights Reserved. CARDINAL HEALTH and the Cardinal Health LOGO are trademarks of Cardinal Health and may be registered in the US and/or in other countries.Patent cardinalhealth.com/patents. Lit. No. 1PD23-2724242 (01/2024) * Based on analysis of all CIM customers' weekly turns performance from 02/25/2023-01/06/2024.

From the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a surge in demand for vaccination services—and continue to see high demand today. Our pharmacies serve as vaccination destinations, offering a quick, easy and convenient experience for patients. To make it even easier, we don’t require appointments and most of our vaccines don’t require prescriptions.

To streamline our operations, we’ve also developed an online vaccine scheduling tool that allows patients to schedule vaccinations in advance.

In our continued mission to increase healthcare access, we’ve developed a fleet of mobile health units to deploy to communities across the Midwest to provide pharmacy services like vaccinations and health screenings to workplaces and other organizations. We are one of only a few retailers in the nation to operate mobile health units like this.

Question 2:

How are you addressing health equity and SDOH?

Shirley: Our pharmacies continue to provide vaccine clinics in our communities. We have begun partnering with local immunization coalitions and organizations to provide vaccines to populations who would otherwise be left out. We also provide lunch-and-learn sessions within our communities. We have presented on vaccines, medication adherence and more with the help of our registered dietitians. In addition, programs such as our point of care testing are aimed at expanding patient access to health care. Patients who may not be able to afford an ER trip are still able to get tested for strep and flu at much more affordable costs by walking into our pharmacies.

Watkins: Kroger Health has several ongoing initiatives that highlight our commitment to bringing equitable healthcare services to people who need them most. These include the following:

We are collaborating with Performance Kitchen to offer medically tailored meals—the first time Kroger Health is offering evidencebased, registered dietitian approved meals that will offer nutrition intervention for people who are living with various health conditions.

We also recently launched a Smart Benefits program that combines Kroger Health’s services with Soda Health’s &more platform. This program allows participating Medicare Advantage, Medicaid and employer benefits program recipients to receive certain pharmacy, nutrition services and other eligible benefits at The Kroger Co.’s Family of Pharmacies, in addition to purchasing eligible food and over-the-counter health items.

Our telenutrition and telehealth services also level the playing field for people who may not be able to physically get to a healthcare professional. Our registered dietitians will take patients’ dietary restrictions, varying health conditions (when appropriate), relationship with food, culture, ability and desire to cook and more into consideration to teach them how to nourish your body.

Our Race to Vaccinate program allows members of our community to meet with our pharmacists, dietitians and clinicians to see how they can perform at their best and live life at full speed.

Since 2018, Kroger Health and EVERFI have worked together in efforts to reduce the number of young adults misusing prescription medications, with a focus on reducing opioid-related deaths in the U.S. The Prescription Drug Safety curriculum is a valuable resource, sharing information about the potential for prescription medication misuse as well as tools students can use to make safe decisions and understand early warning signs of addiction.

Finally, Kroger has made great strides with its Zero Hunger|Zero Waste initiative. In 2023, we achieved our goal to donate 3 billion meals to our communities by 2025, more than two years ahead of schedule.

Host: We understand SDOH and behaviors impact 70% of healthcare outcomes, and by creating Walmart offerings to help address SDOH and behaviors, we can reach people earlier in their healthcare journeys, focus on preventive health, make health care better and reduce the costs of health care.

In October 2022, we launched Walmart Healthcare Research Institute to help increase community access to healthcare research and innovative medicines by focusing on diseases that impact our communities. Our goal is to help promote safer, higher quality and more equitable health care by supporting research efforts that ultimately could improve safety and effectiveness for all.

In 2022, we also launched pilot programs to help with early access to healthcare professionals, access to healthy food and low-cost selfmanagement tools. Further, we have engaged key partners to assist us in the specific management of conditions and disease states.

Nelson: One of our newest health care strategies is centered around Food as Medicine. By combining the expertise of our pharmacists with our team of registered dietitians—as well as our wide in-store selection of organic and specialty grocery items—we are helping individuals prevent and manage chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and obesity through simple dietary and nutritional changes.

We recently joined NACDS’s Nourish My Health public education campaign, which aims to increase access to nutritional resources, vaccinations and health screenings to improve health outcomes.

Most recently, we teamed up with Soda Health to launch a new health and wellness benefits program that incentivizes Medicaid, Medicare and other health insurance members to redeem personalized benefits for healthy food, nutritional support, medications and other everyday healthcare items at their local Hy-Vee.

We’ve also transferred our expertise in this area to our local communities. At the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, we pledged to deliver 30 million meals to vulnerable communities by 2025 and have already surpassed that goal through our ongoing effort to provide 100 million meals to Feeding America-affiliated food banks across the Midwest by the end of 2024. Additionally, we announced at the conference that we would educate 100,000 Americans in areas of low food access on healthy eating and nutrition by 2026, and we are on track to reach this milestone with the help of our team of registered dietitians. dsn

Drug Store News Connect With Your Customers
Social Followers 33,000 Circulation 110,000 Avg Monthly Website Users 63,000 AM Daily Newsletter Subscribers 65,000 Inside Beauty Newsletter Weekly Subscribers Visit drugstorenews.com/media-planners to learn about available advertising programs.

Delivering Comfort and Clarity

Most of us take our sight and hearing for granted— until we encounter conditions that compromise their quality. Those conditions might range from dry or itchy eyes to hearing loss stemming from ear wax buildup or the aging process.

A number of lifestyle trends pose a threat to eye comfort. One such trend is consumers spending more time “staring at their digital devices,” said Scott Berg, general manager, consumer eye care for North Chicago, Ill.-based AbbVie. By doing so, they tend to blink less, which can contribute to drying of the eye’s surface. The dry-eye threat isn’t limited to seniors, either.

“As a result of increased screen time and other modern external factors, a younger demographic of consumers is now experiencing dry eyes. It’s no longer a condition that only impacts adults over the age of 55,” explained John Ferris, executive vice president, consumer for Bausch + Lomb, Bridgewater, N.J. “In fact, 70% of adults experience eye discomfort due to the excessive use of screens.”

Another trend adversely impacting many consumers’ eye comfort is contact lens wear. As Ferris noted, a third of the 45 million U.S. contact lens wearers suffer from eye discomfort and dryness.

Seventy percent of adults experience eye discomfort due to the excessive use of screens.”

— John Ferris, executive vice president, consumer, ” – John Ferris, executive vice president, consumer, Bausch + Lomb

Other lifestyle and environmental factors—including poor sleep habits, diet, allergens, air pollution and more—are modern contributors to eye dryness, irritation or discomfort, Berg pointed out. The aging process also brings with it vision changes, such as reduced tear production.

Comfort’s in Sight

Fortunately for today’s consumers, there are a number of overthe-counter solutions for eye discomfort. And those solutions are welcomed: Almost half of the 70% of adults who experience screen-related eye discomfort, for example, use OTC lubricant eye drops to get relief, Ferris noted.

Today’s advanced eye-care and ear-care solutions address the threats to two of consumers’ critical senses

New offerings promise to up the comfort game.

Waging War on Wax

When it comes to routine ear care, wax removal remains the primary consumer concern. In fact, of the five OTC ear-care segments—the others being ear pain, ear ringing, ear itch and swimmer’s ear—the wax removal category generates 64% of dollar sales, according to Lauri Gosline, director, customer development and insights for Quest Products LLC, Pleasant Prairie, Wis. The company offers the Clinere line of wax removal products.

An aging population is only increasing demand here. As consumers age, wax buildup tends to increase, said Ed Wagner, founder and CEO of Portland, Ore.-based Blue Echo Care.

In addition, more consumers are using earbuds to listen to music and relying on OTC hearing aids. Both practices also represent drivers for wax removal products, as they can trap wax in the ear, he noted.

For its part, AbbVie recently launched two preservativefree products: Refresh Relieva PF Xtra and Refresh Tears PF. The former—the only lubricant eye drop enhanced with the antioxidant trehalose, sodium hyaluronate —“instantly relieves dry, burning, irritated eyes and prevents further irritation while providing a layer of protection that locks in hydration,” Berg said. The latter is a preservative-free version of the original Refresh Tears to moisturize and lubricate dry, burning and/or irritated eyes (mild symptoms). “They also both come in a soft-squeeze, multidose bottle that is easier to pack than single-use vials,” he said.

Bausch + Lomb aimed beyond eye comfort with the recent introduction of Lumify Eye Illuminations. Developed with eye-care professionals and dermatologists, the trio of hypoallergenic specialty eye-care offerings is designed “to cleanse, nourish and brighten the sensitive eye area without irritation,” Ferris explained.

Bausch + Lomb also acquired the Blink eye-care brand in 2023. As Ferris explained, the acquisition expands the company’s portfolio to offer consumers more OTC solutions for dry-eye and dry-lens relief.

Within the wax removal space, consumers’ focus increasingly is on safety and effectiveness. Many unsafe ear-care products remain on-shelf, Wagner noted.

“COVID unlocked the door to consumers’ self-educating themselves in regards to health products. Smarter consumers want the safest products,” he said.

In addition to safe, effective products, today’s consumers want comfort and functionality, Gosline pointed out. Price, of course, also factors into decision-making.

“Drops and tools are consistent volumedriving solutions,” she said, “while social media-driven solutions like cameras bring new consumers into the segment.”

Gosline also noted that 87% of shoppers indicate they would buy a product that has a social and environmental benefit.

“Our future pipeline will also deliver on those expectations,” she said.

And it’s worth noting that Blue Echo Care recently expanded its offerings to include a line of OTC class II airconduction hearing aids. “This expansion in our catalog makes our Cleanse Right brand the one-stop shop for all things ears, across all price ranges,” Wagner said.


ID the Offenders

Last September, the FDA issued warning letters to a number of companies for manufacturing or marketing unapproved eye drops in violation of federal law. And last October, the agency warned consumers not to purchase, and to immediately stop using, 26 OTC eye drop products, citing “insanitary conditions in the manufacturing facility and positive bacterial test results from environmental sampling of critical drug production areas.”

In response, the New Orleansbased Dry Eye Foundation announced the launch of a searchable eye drop database called “Are My Eye Drops Safe?” Health care professionals, retailers and consumers may use the tool to find detailed information about eye drops sold in the United States, including illegally marketed products, recalled products and products subject to FDA safety communications or warnings.

Personalizing Hearing-Loss Solutions

Speaking of OTC hearing aids, the category has significantly expanded since its introduction in late 2022. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the reasonable price point of OTC hearing aids in comparison to traditional prescription options—and no shortage of potential consumers.

“Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States, even twice as prevalent as diabetes or cancer, according to a 2023 NCOA analysis,” noted William Brownie, chief operating officer and interim CEO of Eargo Inc., San Jose, Calif. “Historically, people with hearing loss waited an average of 8.9 years before considering a hearing aid, but at Eargo, we’re seeing that time cut in half.”

Despite the influx of OTC offerings, Brownie pointed to a lack of support in the category on the part of many companies. Eargo views the purchase as only the beginning of the user’s journey with the company, he noted. As such, the company’s devices come with the access to professional assistance that’s critical to integrating hearing aids into consumer’s lives.

Brian Maguire, senior vice president and head of North America for Bostonbased Lexie Hearing, echoed the importance of support—not only at the point of purchase, but also ongoing through usage. His company’s contact center is a seven-day-a-week resource for hearing aid customers.

In addition to support, consumers want a discreet product, Maguire noted. And more consumers look to have smart phone streaming capability and long-lasting, rechargeable batteries.

Perhaps the most noteworthy development within the space, however, is the introduction of self-fitting devices. Such products, he noted, allow each hearing aid to be fine-tuned to the individual hearing loss profile of the user via an in-app hearing test.

“Our self-fit products have demonstrated the same clinical hearing efficacy or outcomes that you would get by doing through an audiologist or a medical professional,” Maguire explained.

The “latest and greatest” from his company takes that self-fit technology a step further, delivering the “first clinically proven self-tuning technology to the marketplace,” he noted. Called Lexie B2 Plus, the hearing aid is powered by Bose. It includes an enhanced in-app hearing test feature and a charging case. dsn

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States, even twice as prevalent as diabetes or cancer, according to a 2023 NCOA analysis.”

– William Brownie, chief operating officer and interim CEO, Eargo Inc.


How Sweet It Is

High commodity prices have led to inflation in the candy aisle, but consumers don’t really seem to notice by Taffel Sturgeon

Life in the candy world will always be sweet, but disruptions both large and small are causing challenges for candy retailers.

For one, the Wonka movie release came and went in late 2023, and there was no concurrent co-brand release of a Wonka chocolate bar. The Wall Street Journal reported that studio execs decided against releasing the classic chocolate Wonka Bars with a golden ticket inside one, even at $10 to $12 a bar. CandyStore.com, the world’s biggest online candy retailer, went so far as to issue a petition asking Wonka execs to release a bar. Seems like a miss.

Yet in late 2024, Hollywood will release follow-up movies to the titanic franchises of The Lion King and Beetlejuice, and both seem tailor-made for co-branding opportunities that appeal to children (always the biggest market for candy, what with fledgling sweet tooths) and are a fit for Halloween.

When the live-action The Lion King remake was released in 2019, for instance, PEZ Dispensers featuring four of the leading characters were released.

Crisis = opportunity

Now is the time for retailers to plan their product sets for the year-end holidays. Halloween and the winter holidays are the top two of the big four candy-centric holidays, each

Even in challenging economic times, consumers are celebrating and making room in their budgets for the affordable luxury of chocolate and candy.”

John Downs, president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association

bringing in about $6.5 billion in annual sales, according to the National Confectioners Association’s State of Treating 2024 report, issued in March 2024.

Even there, though, problems loom. In 2023, climate change-driven heat waves in West Africa, where some 70% of the world’s cocoa is grown, devastated crops and led to a doubling of prices of chocolates. Similarly, unusually dry weather damaged sugar harvests in India and Thailand, the world’s second- and third-largest exporters. Sugar prices increased 55% in two months near the end of 2023.


“Historic cocoa prices are expected to limit earnings growth this year,” Michele Buck, The Hershey Company president and CEO, noted in the chocolatier’s fourth quarter 2023 report. Yet while the company experienced declining sales volumes for 2023, it nevertheless had surging net profit margins, to 16.7%, for the year, because it passed increased costs to consumers.

Another major chocolate brand, Cadbury, owned by Mondelez, reported a similar story in its fourth quarter 2023 investor report—higher prices led to higher profits despite lower unit sales.

“The chocolate and candy companies are not immune to the well-reported supply chain challenges,” said Carly Schildhaus, director of public affairs and communications at the National Confectioners Association, “but the companies are working diligently alongside their retail partners to do everything they can to manage down costs and make chocolate and candy accessible to consumers, especially around seasonal celebrations like the winter holidays.”

That said, while chocolate prices have surged because of the ingredient price spike, candy benefits from some inherently resilient qualities: It’s not such an expensive product, plus its core taste sensation is built on sugar, which is about as close to an

Most popular Halloween Candy

1. Reese’s Cups

2. M&M’s

3. Hot Tamales

4. Skittles

5. Sour Patch Kids

6. Starbust

7. Hershey’s Kisses

8. Candy Corn

9. Hershey’s Mini Bars

10. Snickers

addiction as any of the five taste qualities can have. Combined, consumers continue to buy candies regardless of price.

Overall, confectionery sales hit a record $48 billion in 2023, a big number thanks in part to inflation, according to the National Confectioners Association. The group estimates the confectionery market will reach $61 billion by 2028.

The undeniable delicacy

“Even in challenging economic times, consumers are celebrating and making room in their budgets for the affordable luxury of chocolate and candy,” said John Downs, president and CEO of the National Confectioners Association. “Given the important role that chocolate and candy play in the seasons, it’s no surprise that the category enjoys a high rate of permissibility, with 96% of U.S. consumers in agreement that it is perfectly fine to enjoy some treats during the holidays.”

One of the things that make candy fun is innovations that hook new shoppers. Flavor tripping with the so-called miracle fruit hit a decade ago and changed flavors as it was eaten. In the chocolate world, high-end dark chocolate keeps raising the percent of cacao while new flavors like savory bacon and salt mixed with chocolate are a revelation.

15 years sales data (2007-2022) Sales data. Candystore.com

It helps that nine out of 10 people mention chocolate when asked what they buy when they want to do something nice for

Many innovative chocolate flavors are introduced as seasonal or limited-edition releases, especially around holidays or special occasions. Peppermint is a staple flavor during the holidays, and combining it with unexpected ingredients can create innovative candy flavors. We’ve seen peppermint-infused chocolates with a hint of sea salt, peppermint bark with added layers of caramel or toffee and peppermint-flavored nougat in chocolate bars. If these limited-time offerings receive positive feedback and strong sales, retailers may consider adding them to their permanent product lineup.

“Innovation has always been at the heart of the confectionery industry,” said Schildhaus, “and consumers are excited to see their classic and nostalgic favorites alongside new and splashy products.” dsn

Made financially possible by:

Evolution of Checkout

You can’t fully understand where retail is headed if you aren’t observing checkout

The evolution of different forms of checkout and growing experimentation with new technologies has disrupted a mundane part of the retail business.”

It was never an exciting part of retail.

For decades, checkout was the pathway out of a store, but not the reason people came to the store in the first place. Few experts pointed to checkout as reflecting interesting consumer or retail business trends.

But if checkout hadn’t received a lot of attention in the past, that is now changing. The evolution of different forms of checkout and growing experimentation with new technologies has disrupted a mundane part of the retail business. Checkout is now more interesting and much more on the radar of retailers and shoppers.

I would even argue that checkout has a lot to teach us about the most important and robust directions for retail. You can’t fully understand retail’s future if you aren’t observing checkout.

Consumer Choice

Checkout reflects the growing importance of shopper choice at retail. Selfcheckout became a faster-growing trend over the past decade, especially during the pandemic, giving shoppers an alternative to lanes with cashiers. In fact, as stores put more emphasis on self-checkout, some media headlines began to ask if retail was facing a self-checkout-only future.

But self-checkout challenges, including theft and scanning errors, slowed the momentum. That led to other kinds of headlines, including some that declared the failure of self-checkout.

The reality I see isn’t reflected by either of these types of narratives. Consumers increasingly prefer—and demand—choices in their shopping, including at checkout.

Business Operations

Checkout illuminates the kinds of business operations decisions that retail leaders increasingly need to weigh—based on factors such as workforce and shrink. Executives view self-checkout as a model that can help with labor shortages, but they also recognize it creates hurdles related to theft and other forms of loss.

The latter problem recently led Dollar General to say it will completely remove self-checkout from more than 300 of its highest-shrink stores. The retailer is also converting many self-checkout registers to associate-assisted-checkout options and limiting the total number of items that can be part of self-checkout transactions.

Technology and Experimentation

Checkout has become a case study in how technology experimentation is accelerating across retail. The best approach is trial and adjustment, especially for more futuristic technologies that dramatically disrupt how checkout works. Amazon made big news recently when it abandoned its “Just Walk Out” technology in Amazon Fresh Stores. The giant retailer will instead focus on Dash Carts that enable shoppers to scan groceries, connect to online shopping lists and complete their grocery checkout process. The company said the move was made because customers want to skip checkout lines and eye receipts and savings throughout their store visits.

Customer Experience

Shoppers are increasingly seeking enhanced physical-store experiences and checkout is an important part of this trend. Enhanced experiences, however, are in the eyes of the beholder.

For example, Gen Z in particular tends to like self-checkout and would even switch stores for it, according to a survey by digital solutions company Avery Dennison.

Retail Reinvention

What’s next for checkout at retail? Will there even be a need to check out in the future?

This function will continue to be reinvented, just like retail itself. I predict checkout will adapt for changing developments and help us understand where retail is headed. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

Isn’t checkout exciting? dsn

E IC ’ 1 SE I S * WATERPROOF | SWEATPROOF | UP TO 24HR WEAR** *based on Nielson USxAOC $ sales for Make It Last ® Original variant for 52WKS ending 2/24/24 | **24HR wear claims based on Make It Last ® Original milanicosmetics

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.