DSN tours Walgreen’s new Boston flagship store with Bryan Pugh

BOSTON — Walgreens VP merchandising, store design and well experience Bryan Pugh walked DSN through the company’s newest flagship store, here, in downtown Boston, Tuesday, a day before the official ribbon cutting of the store.


For photos of the pharmacy and OTC section (Part 1), click here.
For photos of the beauty section (Part 2), click here.
For photos of the consumables and general merchandise sections (Part 3), click here.
For photos of the ribbon-cutting, store exterior and design (Part 4, click here).

The expansive, 25,000+-sq.-ft. store, including more than 17,000 sq. ft. of selling space and more than 20,000 SKUs, Pugh explained, includes at least one entirely new feature — an interactive kiosk that allows customers to sample a selection of beauty products for $1. Developed by Coinstar, the kiosk, which accepts both cash and credit cards, included offers from about two dozen different vendors, including fragrance maker Coty and others. Samples are packaged in elegant, faux-alligator black gift bags and envelopes and delivered robotically through a sliding hatch.

Also unique to the new Boston store is a special tie-in between the city of Boston’s Boston Moves initiative — which aims to get Boston residents to lose 1 million pounds and move 10 million miles — and Walgreen’s Steps with Balance Rewards program, designed to reward Balance Rewards card members for engaging in healthy behaviors and wellness-related activities. A Boston Moves kiosk is located just outside of the pharmacy area and links directly to the city’s Boston Moves portal.

The store also is home to the company’s 45th Look Boutique — with 29 currently in Duane Reade stores and 16 in Walgreens stores — with a total of 55 stores planned by the end of the year, Pugh told DSN. The Boston store also hosts the company’s third installation of the Boots No 7 boutique. The plan is to add the No 7 boutique to many of its existing flagship stores as well as many of the new flagship stores Walgreens plans to open in the coming weeks and months, including Powell St., in San Francisco, scheduled to open next week, and a massive overhaul of its Las Vegas Strip store located in the Venetian casino resort, slotted for late May. Other flagship stores are planned this year for South Beach in Miami, Philadelphia and another Chicago location at Clarke and Broadway.

The Boston store, which also features an Essie/OPI nail bar and a Ramy Eyebrow Bar, places a heightened focus on service, particularly in beauty, and a large number of beauty advisors were on hand for the pre-opening events, practicing application techniques and participating in hands-on training.

The focus on service also continues in pharmacy, where Walgreens’ “bridge” pharmacy design puts its pharmacists in front of the patient. The new state of the art pharmacy format essentially creates two pharmacy teams in the store — the patient care team that the customer sees, and the tech-driven production team that exists behind the scenes, where the heavylifting of filling scripts occurs (i.e., counting, filling, etc.). The workflow enables the pharmacist to approve fills via hi-definition images transmitted from the backbench to the pharmacist’s ipad or desktop in front of the counter.

According to Nimesh Jhaveri, executive director of pharmacy services for Walgreens, the new format is now enabling its pharmacists to engage in consultations with about half of its patients, he explained. How does that compare to a few years ago, prior to the rollout of the new pharmacy design? “It was in the low single-digits,” Jhaveri explained. “In the past, it was more of a forced consultation based on something we needed to do.” That engagement is picking up on the patient side, too, Jhaveri added, with about 11% to 15% of patients requesting more in-depth counseling in a private area.

Like all of its flagship stores, the Boston store puts a major focus on consumables and fresh food offerings. In fact, about 47% of the merchandising is dedicated to consumables, Walgreens executives explained. The typical Walgreens store product mix is about 25% to 35% consumables. The Boston store features a fresh sushi bar, smoothies and fresh-squeezed juices and a baked goods partnership with two high-end Boston sweetshops.

Pugh explained that normally a store of this size in a downtown neighborhood would typically occupy multiple floors, but the new store brings together two pretty high-profile addresses, the former Borders store facing the busy Washington St. thoroughfare and the historic Five Cents Savings Bank building on School St., enabling Walgreens to create more or less, one big contiguous space, with the consumables and health/beauty sides of the store separated by just a few stairs versus an escalator.

Preserving the history of the space, Walgreens restored the bank’s original revolving doors, which had been sealed for more than 20 years. It also created a museum showpiece, combining the original David Morgan office with the bank’s vault to help tell the story of Walgreens to Boston customers. “We’re not from this part of the country, so we thought it was important to utilize the space to show the heritage and history of Walgreens and tell the history of the company,” Pugh told DSN