Retail Design Veteran: Drug Chains Should Consider Foodservice Programs As Way To Re-ignite Front End Traffic And Sales

Bona Design Lab
Bona: A modest beverage program, centered around coffee or healthful juices, could provide a manageable test without a major commitment of resources.
Bona: A modest beverage program, centered around coffee or healthful juices, could provide a manageable test without a major commitment of resources.
Bona Design Lab

NEW YORK, Nov. 6, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Chain drug stores should look to their past to find ways to build customer traffic and revive anemic front-end sales, advises Joseph Bona, President of Bona Design Lab, in a column in the October 21 edition of Chain Drug Review.

In the column, the retail design veteran notes that pharmacy profitability is being reduced by industry-wide reimbursement pressures.  Moreover, while the front store business is needed more than ever to compensate for the diminished profits from the pharmacy, it has been consigned to a secondary role at the largest drug chains, contributing only a quarter to a third of overall sales.

Even worse, chains are struggling to grow customer traffic and same-store sales in the front of the store. "The unpleasant truth is that there is far too much sameness in the front-end offerings from one drug chain to another, and in fact little to differentiate them from what can be found at Walmart, Target or the nearest supermarket — often at a lower price," he writes.

Bona goes on to challenge drug chains to break the mold of their highly similar strategic responses and entertain what might seem like radical departures.  "Perhaps one way to do that is, in effect, to go back to the future, to think back to a time when the drug store served as a community hub with its iconic soda fountain and lunch counter," he suggests.

While selling consumables in drug stores is no innovation, Bona acknowledges, a foodservice program does present operational challenges and risk to the brand if poorly executed. But there are ways, he maintains, to lessen that risk and explore the potential opportunity without incurring a major investment.  For example, a modest beverage program, centered around a coffee offering or healthful juices, could provide a manageable test without requiring a major commitment of resources.

Virtually all retail channels are raising the bar in terms of in-store experience to meet rising customer expectations, Bona notes, and that is where store design can play a key role, visually communicating the availability of new offerings, enticing customers to try them and providing an ambience that contributes to a positive customer experience.  "Visual cues like an open storefront where you can actually see inside, exterior awnings, a small outdoor patio area and limited indoor seating will provide credibility about the seriousness of the expanded offers but also provide a richer and more authentic experience," he writes.

"What better way to wait the 20 minutes to have a script filled than enjoying a New Age antioxidant elixir while getting health and nutritional information digitally presented at one of the iPads connected to the tables," Bona adds.

If properly executed and curated, the program can attract more customers, more often — even if they do not have prescriptions to fill. With that, the front end becomes once again a shopper destination on its own, Bona concludes.

The full article is available at:

About Bona Design Lab

Based in New York City, Bona Design lab is a global retail and design firm known for its elevated approaches to convenience store, food, and fuel retailing.  Its suite of services includes brand strategy development, consumer insights, naming/logo development, site planning, store layout, exterior/interior design, and graphic design.  Its capabilities in business analysis and consulting run the gamut from menu and communications strategies to equipment layout and workflow analysis, to financial metrics and operational consulting.

Editor's Note: As competitors continue to move into the convenience services space, we will publish articles that we think operators should read to best inform themselves of threats to our industry.

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