RAD employs Rx initiatives, new format

Rite Aid recently has put into play a number of forward-looking initiatives to help improve operations, particularly across pharmacy. The Pennsylvania-based retailer last month announced its test market of six new Wellness store prototypes, and after successfully testing a 15-minute prescription guarantee in three states, Rite Aid expanded that guarantee to all states except New York. 


As part of the company’s segmentation strategy, Rite Aid last month opened six pilot Wellness stores that have been refitted with new decor. “There are significant changes to our merchandising, including the addition of an expanded selection of organic foods, all-
natural personal care products and homeopathic medicines,” John Standley, Rite Aid president and CEO, told analysts last month. “These stores have additional resources to help customers obtain their wellness objectives, including expanded clinical pharmacy services [and] wellness ambassadors. The expanded clinical services include pharmacists who are diabetes care specialists, certified immunizers and medication therapy management experts.”


Meanwhile, wellness ambassadors will walk 
the aisles armed with information regarding over-the-counter medications and supplements. “Many of the wellness ambassadors are pharmacy technicians who have received additional training,” Robert Thompson, EVP pharmacy, told Drug Store News. “Their skill set is already pretty substantial, and they can be part of the bridge between the front-end and the pharmacy. They can help customers on the floor, and if they have a question that needs to be answered, [those pharmacy technicians] can find the right resource and encourage additional conversations with the pharmacist.”


All told, Rite Aid will be remodeling as many as 500 stores in the coming fiscal year, including both Wellness and value formats that will better target each pharmacy to the community it serves.


Rite Aid’s 15-minute prescription guarantee should serve as a key trial driver. Last month, a Consumer Reports survey revealed that 21% of pharmacy customers were dissatisfied by a perceived slow speed of service, and 15% complained their prescriptions weren’t ready when promised. The ability to stand out as a pharmacy that consistently dispenses prescriptions within 15 minutes could be a game changer, especially as speed of service becomes more paramount. The Consumer Reports survey found that 49% of respondents cited speed of service as an important consideration in choosing a drug store, compared with 24% in their 2002 survey.


“The vast majority of prescriptions at Rite Aid are filled within 15 minutes anyway,” Thompson said. “Our NexGen dispensing system is the backbone to filling prescriptions and is built around a rigorous quality assurance process. There are many checks and balances built into the system to ensure that quality and safety is foremost in dispensing the prescription.” Thompson noted that the guarantee does not include counseling, compounding or where information is needed from the prescription provider or insurer. “[The 15-minute guarantee] is about recognizing and respecting consumers’ desire for prompt service,” Thompson added.


Rite Aid’s segmentation initiatives, including its new Wellness store pilots, and the 15-minute guarantee both serve to draw customers into the store, but Rite Aid’s successful loyalty program is a significant factor in keeping them coming back. “Wellness+ members accounted for 67% of front-end sales and 58% of our script count during the quarter,” Standley said. Standley reported 36 million Wellness+ members as of mid-March, up from 29 million reported in mid-December.