Retail’s undeniable 
interconnectedness

“It’s actually an illusion that those boxers are separate entities. The separate entities are just the way we choose to perceive them. The boxers, you, me — we’re all part of the same quantum field. Think of the two boxers as ocean waves or currents of air — two tornadoes, say. They appear to be two separate things, but they’re not. Tornadoes are just wind. The wind stirred up in different directions. The fact is nothing is separate. Everything is connected. The shapes we see exist only in our own consciousness.” — John Schwinn (Hal Holbrook), “The Sopranos,” Episode 69: “The Fleshy Part of the Thigh”


As I stood on the top floor of Duane Reade’s new flagship store at 100 Broadway, looking out the enormous windows onto the Canyon of Heroes below, it occurred to me that there was a certain, undeniable interconnectedness between the excitement that was occurring in that store (see page 4) and many of the other stories we have been following at DSN these days. 


Take this issue, for instance: the sudden explosion in loyalty card activity among retailers and the emergence of the health-and-wellness guide, who is helping to tie together the front-end of the store with the pharmacy in a way that creates a bona fide customer experience around health and wellness. We have been reporting on these stories as separate events and even trends in themselves, when in fact they are all part of the same giant soup of transformative concepts and best practices that are bumping up against each other in this quantum field we define as retailing. We analyze them as separate events, but in reality they are all connected. 


So, Duane Reade opens a second flagship store within a few blocks of the one it opened at 40 Wall St., roughly one year ago. Like so many of Duane Reade’s stores, you can walk from one store to the other in the span of about two minutes. Yet, there is little, if any, cannibalization. They serve different customers. 40 Wall St. is literally across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, and the streets tucked in between it and the South Street Seaport to the East and the Staten Island Ferry to the South are lined with high-end residential properties — it’s a special kind of food desert. There are no supermarkets, but it’s not like anybody living down there is broke either. 100 Broadway serves a mix of local workers and a high volume of tourists. 


Those differences play out in the merchandise and offerings in each store. The new store at 100 Broadway doesn’t have the full Look Boutique with any of the high-end services featured at 40 Wall St., like the Essie nail bar or the Ramy brow bar. It also doesn’t have the huge assortment in grocery items that 40 Wall St. has, but it’s testing other in-and-out businesses, like fresh salads, a barista cafe and a soup bar.


This isn’t something new. Duane Reade has been doing this successfully for the past few years as it has reinvented what people have come to expect of the typical drug store shopping experience. It stood that concept on its head and in fairness, was the incubator for Walgreens’ broader “Health and Daily Living Store” concept that it will roll into stores all across America in the months ahead. 


The vision that created the Health and Daily Living Store concept was shaped from the learnings from Duane Reade’s loyalty card program. It informs what they put in the stores and allows them to tailor each store to the customers that shop there. Loyalty cards don’t just enable customized offers; they also enable customized shopping experiences — stores merchandised for the customers that shop there. 


Sometimes these stories all seem like separate occurrences — a loyalty card over here, a new store opening over there. But standing on the top floor of Duane Reade’s newest store, it’s clear that all of these things are really connected. It’s our minds that draw the lines of distinction.


Rob Eder is the editor in chief of The Drug Store News Group, publishers of Drug Store News, DSN Collaborative Care, and Specialty Pharmacy magazines. You can contact him at reder@lf.com.

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