Walgreens taps out a little bit of sunshine in last week's meetings

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — It couldn't have been choreographed better if Bob Fosse himself had orchestrated Walgreens' annual shareholders' meeting. It started on Monday, Jan. 9, when Walgreens' executive team entertained reporters to unveil the latest flagship location on State and Randolph. That evening, Illinois governor Pat Quinn and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel stood with flagship architect Joe Magnacca and officially christened the new store before Tuesday's grand opening. And after, shareholders had an opportunity to taste the new Walgreens fare for themselves, the week's affairs ended with a state-of-the-pharmacy address from Greg Wasson on Wednesday that focused more on Walgreens' future and less on Walgreens' future without Express Scripts.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens outlines five key strategies to change the pharmacy retail industry. For the full story, click here. To check out DSN's comprehensive pictorial store tour of the latest flagship, click here.)

Walgreens has set the stage for a new kind of pharmacy. Last year Wasson stated that one of Walgreens' objectives was to own "well." And this year, Walgreens is delivering that "well experience," in part through what Wasson described as a "cutting edge design with improved product assortment" combination.

But Walgreens' showstopper can be found in those flagship stores, indeed across all of its "well experience" stores, as the pharmacy operator attempts to advance the role community pharmacy plays in the delivery and application of overall healthcare by bringing out America's most-trusted healthcare professional permanently from behind the pharmacy counter to be center stage with the patient.

And so far, it's working. "Never in my 31 years with this company have I ever seen customer satisfaction jump like it does in these [well] experience stores," Wasson told shareholders.

But even with all the new store format fanfare last week, Express Scripts still loomed across the backdrop as Walgreens' top officials defended its decision to walk away from that PBM's pharmacy network.  "It was the right decision for you our shareholders [and] our employees I can assure you," Wasson said.

What was not said was as important as to what was said, however. There were no apologies — no Mary Sunshine or any of that jazz. Walgreens' executives unabashedly told shareholders — yes, the loss of any Express Scripts prescriptions will hurt this chain's bottom line in the short term. But Walgreens is committed to the long term, and the future of Walgreens, indeed the future of the "well experience" is as bright and sunny as ever without the need for any rose-colored glasses.