Inside This Issue - Opinion
Walgreens as dynamic as mass retailers get
April 2nd, 2012
An editorial that appeared in The Boston Globe last month was critical of Walgreen Co.’s plans to open a 24,000-square-foot drug store in the city’s Downtown Crossing section next fall.
The outlet will be housed in a building, last occupied by a Borders book store, at the intersection of Washington and School streets.
"Many residents hoped a dynamic retailer or forward-thinking business would move into the location, which sits across from the Old South Meeting House on the Freedom Trail," the editorial read. … "But this historic location, in the heart of Boston’s once-thriving retail mecca, deserves a more distinctive tenant."
One can only conclude that the editors of the newspaper have not kept up with the rapid evolution of Walgreens in recent years, a factor that makes “dynamic retailer” and “forward-thinking business” two very apt ways to describe the company. Since becoming Walgreens chief executive officer in February 2009 Greg Wasson has made continuous improvement through challenging the status quo a cornerstone of its strategy, a marked departure for a company whose conservative approach to business had served it well for many years.
The new thinking, which permeates the organization, is embodied in the retailer’s flagship urban drug stores, the kind that Boston will get in the fall. The latest iteration of the concept is the Walgreens at the corner of State and Randolph streets in Chicago’s Loop. The format reimagines the chain drug store, enhancing the core pharmacy business with related health care services while bringing together a wealth of front-end offerings not usually found in the trade class.
"When compared to some of the drab drug stores around town, it’s certainly a step up," the Globe acknowledged in sizing up the retailer’s plans for Boston. "But it’s a stretch to claim it will provide anything novel."
While it’s true such products and services are already available elsewhere in Boston, Walgreens will galvanize the neighborhood by bringing them together in a single environment where synergies between health, beauty, consumables and daily living offerings result in a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Shoppers in Chicago and other cities have responded enthusiastically to Walgreens’ version of the 21st century drug store. There is no reason to think that Bostonians will react any differently.